Actress Debbie Allen joins Prevent Blindness, Regeneron to kick off the Gr8 Eye Movement to raise awareness of serious retinal diseases


A new survey shows that 95% of adults at risk for certain retinal diseases know a little or nothing about them. Allen hopes her story will help raise awareness and encourage those at risk to regularly prioritize their eye health.

(Image Credit: WikimediaCommons/Library of Congress Life)

(Image Credit: WikimediaCommons/Library of Congress Life)

Award-winning actress, dancer and director Debbie Allen is teaming up with Prevent Blindness and Regeneron to kick off the Gr8 Eye Movement, a new disease awareness campaign that aims to address gaps in how people understand the risk of developing certain serious retinal diseases, such as wet age-related macular degeneration (wAMD), diabetic macular edema (DME) and diabetic retinopathy (DR).

According to a news release, the campaign will drive a moment in time to prioritize eye health regularly by designating the 8th of every month as a day to check in on vision. The organization noted the number “8” on its side looks like eyes and serves as a visual reminder for those who join the movement.

Allen said in the news release that maintaining vision has become a growing priority in her life.

“In particular, I’ve learned it’s crucial for people like me — who are from communities of color, are over the age of 60, or who are living with diabetes or at risk of developing diabetes — to educate themselves about the risk of developing a retinal disease,” Allen said in the news release. “Diabetes has impacted many generations of my own family, and I have had family members blinded by diabetic eye disease. Also, as I age, I know I could be at risk for developing other retinal diseases like wet age-related macular degeneration that could potentially hinder me from doing the things in my life I love most. This is why I’m joining the Gr8 Eye Movement – to encourage anyone at risk to check their eye health regularly.”

Allen is an actress, dancer, choreographer, singer-songwriter, director and producer known for her roles in “Fame,” “A Different World” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” She has won five Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award. She also is a 2020 Kennedy Center honoree.

Jeff Todd, president and CEO, Prevent Blindness, pointed out in the news release that for

115 years, it has been the organization’s mission to prevent blindness and preserve sight.

(Image Credit: Prevent Blindness)

(Image Credit: Prevent Blindness)

“So the Gr8 Eye Movement, user, the number 8 to create a moment in time for people to prioritize their eye health by designating the eighth of every month is a is a good day to check in on your vision, you know, an 8 on its side looks like eyes,” Todd told Ophthalmology Times. “And so it's a quick way to remind us to focus in on our eyes. The ultimate goal of this campaign is really to raise awareness about retinal diseases, and educate those who are at risk so they can understand the importance of checking their eyes on a regular basis.”

According to Prevent Blindness, retinal diseases impact a significant number of Americans, with almost 20 million people currently living with some form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD)2, the most common cause of irreversible blindness among the elderly age group. The advanced form of AMD is wet AMD, where vision loss can be very rapid if untreated.4

Diabetes is a leading cause of new blindness in the United States.5 Consistently high blood sugar due to poor glucose control over time can damage small blood vessels in the body, including the eye. Diabetic retinopathy is a disease that damages the blood vessels in the retina, resulting in vision impairment. Left untreated, fluid can leak into the center of the macula, called the fovea, the part of the eye where sharp, straight-ahead vision occurs. The fluid makes the macula swell, blurring vision. This condition is called DME.5

“The learnings from our recent survey, along with the robust insights gleaned through our work in patient advocacy and public health, demonstrate the significant need for further awareness and education,” Todd said. “It’s inspiring to have an icon like Debbie Allen joining the cause and encouraging others to prioritize their eye health.”

Todd said Prevent Blindness also is excited to have Regeneron’s participating in the campaign.

“Prevent Blindness has been around for 115 years, as you may know, focusing on promoting a continuum of vision care,” he explained. “Regeneron, for more than 20 years, has had a commitment to ophthalmology and retinal conditions and the patient community. So it's a natural fit. They've supported some of our eye health efforts in the past. And so it made sense to collaborate on this one as well.”

A recent survey of at-risk adults found that an overwhelming majority (95%) lack knowledge about retinal diseases like wAMD, DME and DR, and therefore are not taking the necessary, proactive steps to take care of their vision. Survey findings indicate that most at-risk adults (67%) believe that vision loss is a normal part of aging. This is even as more than two-thirds of at-risk adults (70%) have experienced symptoms of retinal disease. However, the survey responses also indicate that, once equipped with knowledge about retinal diseases and their risk factors, a majority of those at risk (79%) will take steps to address changes in their vision. These insights underscore the importance of education and awareness.

The survey, according to the news release, was conducted by Wakefield Research, which collected findings from 667 adults age 55+ who are at risk for retinal diseases; from May to June 2023.

Todd said the organization surveyed adults at risk for these retinal conditions.

“We found an overwhelming 95% of them lacked the knowledge about these retinal diseases,” he said. “I was shocked to that number, I assumed it would be high but didn't expect it to be that high.”

Todd added that this indicates they're not likely taking the necessary steps to take care of their vision.

“We also found that most at risk adults, about two-thirds 67% believe that vision loss is a normal part of aging, even as 70% of them have experienced symptoms of retinal disease,” he said. “And important for this campaign. Specifically, we found that once equipped with the knowledge and the risk factors, the majority, just under 80% will take steps to address changes in their vision.”

Kevin Clark, vice president of the Ophthalmology Commercial Business Unit at Regeneron, pointed out in the news release that Regeneron is proud to collaborate with Prevent Blindness and Debbie Allen, to raise awareness of retinal diseases and the importance of getting regular eye health exams.

“The ability to see is a critical part of our lives, and people who are at-risk should be aware that retinal diseases can have an impact on their vision,” Clark said in the news release. "With the Gr8 Eye Movement, we are working to help close the gap in retinal disease awareness and offering a simple way for people to remember to make their eye health a priority."

To learn how you can join the movement, visit, where you can:

  • Access resources and information to make eye health a top priority
  • Find useful tips, including how to use an Amsler grid to detect any changes in vision, understand when to make an eye care appointment, and how to encourage loved ones to check their vision regularly
  • Sign up to receive emails with helpful reminders and engage with the Gr8 Eye Movement on social media for more helpful tips and insights
  1. Lundeen EA, Burke-Conte Z, Rein DB, et al. Prevalence of Diabetic Retinopathy in the US in 2021. JAMA Ophthalmol. Published online June 15, 2023. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2023.2289
  2. Rein DB, Wittenborn JS, Burke-Conte Z, et al. Prevalence of Age-Related Macular Degeneration in the US in 2019. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2022;140(12):1202–1208. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2022.4401
  3. Hobbs SD, Pierce K. Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration (Wet AMD) [Updated 2022 Nov 7]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:
  4. “Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).” National Eye Institute, 22 June 2021. Accessed July 31, 2023.
  5. “DIABETIC MACULAR EDEMA (DME)” Prevent Blindness. Accessed July 31, 2023.
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