Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Establishing the National Eye Institute.

August 17, 1968

WE ARE taking steps today to establish a National Eye Institute within the National Institutes of Health.

Nearly every family in America has at least one member suffering some form of vision problem or eye disease. Half the people in this country wear glasses; 12 million schoolchildren--or approximately one-fourth of all schoolchildren--need eye care. More than 30,000 Americans lose their eyesight every year. Almost one million persons in this country cannot read a newspaper, even with the aid of glasses. More than 400,000 Americans are blind.

These tragedies need not occur. Diseases of the eye can be prevented, treated, cured. And where corrective treatment may not yet be available, supportive measures can be used to help the visually impaired to retain the vision they have and not be forced to withdraw because of their handicap.

Under the direction of the National Institutes of Health, great progress has been made in eye research. This progress has included improvements in the early detection and treatment of glaucoma, surgical procedures for cataract, and successful treatment of vital infections of the cornea. In spite of the progress, however, the number of blind is increasing. There is much that remains to be learned.

The National Eye Institute will build on the great work that has been carried on by the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness for the past 18 years. It will concentrate its efforts on this major health problem by supporting and conducting needed research and, equally important, by helping to train the specialists to provide the diagnosis and treatment that can eliminate much of the eye disease.

Research, training, and services for people afflicted with eye disease or blindness represented an investment of more than $166 million this past year by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Now we are taking an important additional step toward improving our country's ability to prevent and control one of its most tragic and costly health problems.

Note: As enacted, the bill (H.R. 12843) is Public Law 90-489 (82 Stat. 771), approved on August 16, 1968.
The statement was released at Austin, Texas.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Statement by the President Upon Signing Bill Establishing the National Eye Institute. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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