Lifestyle influences eye health and other chronic diseases. All health care providers, not just primary care physicians, should have the necessary information and training to advise and refer patients on lifestyle to take advantage of opportunities to provide such advice.
The extent to which optometrists offer lifestyle advice to their patients is largely unknown. The Optometrists' Practices in Advising about Lifestyle (OPAL) study aimed to examine lifestyle advice that optometrists offer, to whom such advice is offered, and reasons for not offering this advice.
We developed and administered a mail-in survey to 140 optometrists in Western New York.
Five surveys were returned because of death, retirement, and relocation. Of the 135 remaining eligible participants, 46 of the optometrists contacted responded to our survey; however, only 42 (31%) provided signed consent forms. Of these, more than 93% report offering advice on smoking, dietary supplements, and diet, and >59% reported offering on physical activity and alcohol use. Eighty-three percent offer advice to only those with unhealthy behaviors or certain conditions. Most advice consisted of mentioning the lifestyle factor's influence on eye or overall health. Reasons for not offering advice included lack of knowledge or training or the belief that advice would not change behaviors.
Optometrists reported offering advice primarily to those with unhealthy lifestyle behaviors or pre-existing health conditions. Future studies should address low response rates, include nonphysician health care providers in addition to optometrists, and also examine patients' perceptions and understanding of the advice offered to better understand whether this advice is received as the provider envisioned.