National Glaucoma Awareness Month: A Q&A with BrightFocus

National Glaucoma Awareness Month is a campaign aimed at increasing awareness around glaucoma, a leading cause of vision loss and blindness with no early warning signs.

BrightFocus, an organization that is a member of Antidote’s partner network, funds groundbreaking research to find a cure for glaucoma, in addition to Alzheimer’s disease and macular degeneration. They also strive to be a resource for patients, providing their community with expert information and insights about these conditions and the research opportunities available to patients.

In this Q&A, BrightFocus provides more details on their community outreach, awareness campaigns, and clinical trial advocacy — read on to learn more.

A Q&A with BrightFocus for National Glaucoma Awareness Month

BrightFocus recently launched Brain Info Live, a community outreach series to address health disparities for those living with Alzheimer’s. Can you tell us a bit more about this program and the impact it has had?

Brain Info Live is a live-streaming talk show focused on Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (ADRD) and overall brain health, with an emphasis on underrepresented communities. With episodes including Discovering Early Warning Signs, Exploring Music and Memories, and Navigating Financial Planning, the program is intended for caregivers and those living with Alzheimer's and provides tips and tools for early detection and diagnosis, long-term planning and lifestyle interventions, local resources and events, clinical trials, and more. We have broadcast over 60 episodes reaching more than 75,000 people across the country since our premiere in August 2021 and launched the program in Spanish in spring 2022. We are looking forward to bringing the program and its content to more communities in 2023.

What are some ways that BrightFocus is raising national awareness around Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, and glaucoma?

BrightFocus Foundation is a highly cited and unrivaled provider of expert brain and eye health information across print and digital channels. Through its targeted disease program messaging (Alzheimer’s Disease Research, Macular Degeneration Research, and National Glaucoma Research), BrightFocus reaches an external audience of over 420M every year through free expert content and resources to raise public awareness about understanding, preventing, and treating Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration, and glaucoma.

You’ve been hosting monthly, in-depth conversations with industry experts, called BrightFocus Chats. What do you hope to achieve through these discussions?

The BrightFocus Chats series was launched nearly a decade ago to connect listeners directly with experts to share information about macular degeneration. Every month, we partner with experts including retina specialists, industry partners, OTs, and researchers to share advice, answer questions about managing and treating the disease; discuss promising research, clinical trial results, or new drug announcements; and provide practical tips for accessing additional support for daily living activities. Through a partnership with the American Glaucoma Society, in 2022 we launched BrightFocus Glaucoma Chats. Featuring glaucoma specialists and other vision experts, we follow the same format but the topics address vision issues specific to glaucoma. Both Chats are also presented as podcasts on iTunes and Spotify to further drive awareness and share information for patients and the public and to accomplish better eye health outcomes for all.

How do you decide on the focus of each chat, and what is your selection process for finding professionals to interview?

There are a few ways that we identify topics. For the BrightFocus Macular Degeneration (AMD) Chats we have so much content archived from previous Chats, so we use a bit more flexibility in scheduling. We like to work with BrightFocus researchers and industry partners to discuss potential treatments or lifestyle changes. There is so much going on in the AMD space right now that we tend to schedule three months out in order to allow time for breaking news. For the Glaucoma Chats, because we only recently launched the series, we have worked with the American Glaucoma Society to create essentially a yearlong curriculum and provide an arsenal of members and others who are interviewed live on the call.

Perhaps most importantly, we seek to truly honor the patients’ perspective and create topics that include their questions as part of the script development. Every month, hundreds of listeners leave messages with their questions and content requests.

How does BrightFocus educate its community about the importance of participating in clinical trials?

The BrightFocus community is very interested in research and clinical trials. We (of course) have the Antidote trial finder on our website, which is an easy way for individuals to find clinical trials close to their location. In addition, we partner with different companies that are conducting clinical trials and other types of research studies, such as focus groups, patient interviews, and surveys, so there is the patient’s perspective in drug development to share eligibility information with our audiences. This is done through a dedicated page on our website, emails, inclusion in electronic and direct mail newsletters, and social media promotion. These are also promoted on the Chats. 

In terms of broader reach, we have content on the website and a publication in English and Spanish called Understanding Clinical Trials. The topic of how trials work and what one should consider if they are interested in joining is covered frequently in Brain Info Live and the BrightFocus Chats.

In what ways does your partnership with Antidote assist in advancing medical research?

Our audience is very interested in the advancement of medical research. However, searching for clinical trials can be a confusing and daunting task. We have partnered with Antidote, utilizing their clinical trial finder tool to provide individuals a much easier way to find trials in their area.

Are there any new research developments you’d like to highlight?

When we see new treatments become available, such as those we are anticipating for geographic atrophy and Alzheimer’s, it’s really a testament to the research BrightFocus has funded, in many cases years ago. Our researchers are developing new diagnostics to detect and identify these diseases earlier, experimenting with novel interventions such as gene therapies and non-invasive brain stimulation, and focusing on preventative lifestyle changes that can delay disease onset and progression. Through the bold ideas, hard work, and the perseverance of our researchers and the dedication of our donors, we see life-changing treatments come to fruition. And as we all wait for better outcomes, we provide important information about trials and managing these conditions in the meantime.

Medical advancements can only happen when eligible participants take part in research. If you’d like to see the clinical trials for which you may be eligible, use the button below to get started.