Scott A. Edmonds, OD, FAAO, focuses his blog on the role of the optometrist in health care reform – moving from primary eye care to primary health care. He is the chief medical officer of MARCH Vision Care, the co-director of the Low Vision/Contact Lens Service at Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia and a member of the Primary Care Optometry News Editorial Board. 

Disclosure: Edmonds is a consultant for March Vision.

BLOG: Bicycling to better health

Philadelphia is a newsworthy city. We get plenty of press about the attitude of our sports fans who tend to get a bit overzealous at times.

Of course, recent events like the Super Bowl victory for our Eagles and now the NCAA basketball crown for our Villanova Wildcats may soften us up a bit. We have a high crime rate, with 90% of all U.S. cities having a lower crime index, according to Neighborhood Scout. Even the “Fresh Prince” had to escape to Bel Air to avoid Philadelphia trouble.

But we are also becoming more health conscious and are working together as a community to act on our heritage of “brotherly love” by developing programs that encourage better health. I have written about our famous Philly Soda Tax and continue to applaud this effort in spite of the political controversy.

In this blog, I want to discuss the latest new story about the addition of more protected bicycling lanes in our Center City area. In addition to the mission of the Bicycling Coalition of Greater Philadelphia to have a “Vision Zero” goal related to traffic fatalities, this program will encourage more of our citizens to ride a bike to work or tour the sights and sounds of our historic town.

There is much that a community can do to influence the health of its citizens. Scholars in the field of public health have been studying this for years and have developed the Social Determinants of Health program that is spearheaded by a commission of the same name of the World Health Organization. The work in this field is extensive, but the bottom line is that environmental factors in society in general and in communities specifically have a greater influence on health than medical care.

The health of respective cities of America is ranked and rated by WalletHub, and Philadelphia is ranked at number 43 overall, but our fitness rank is only 65. It’s interesting that our healthy food rank is 21 (thank you, soda tax!). We are number 11 of the east coast cities, but we rank behind our friendly rivals in Boston, New York and Washington. I think we can do better.

Riding a bicycle is an easy way to begin a healthier lifestyle campaign. It provides low impact to backs and knees while requiring stretching, balance and aerobic exercise. At the same time, it is fun and can be done with couples or small groups and provides a good atmosphere for socialization.

As optometrists, we pride ourselves on being primary care health providers. This puts us at the front lines of health-related issues and must extend beyond the dark room. In addition to recommending programs of diet and exercise to our patients who are at risk of vision loss from chronic problems such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes, we must be leaders in our communities to advocate programs that promote healthy lifestyles. Maybe it is time for us all to get on the bike path.


Neighborhood Scout. Safest Philadelphia neighborhoods. Accessed April 11, 2018.

Orso, A. Protected bike lanes coming to Market Street, JFK by spring. The Inquirer. Posted March 17, 2018.

WalletHub. 2018’s healthiest and unhealthiest cities in America. Posted Feb. 12, 2018.

The Commission on Social Determinants of Health. Accessed April 11, 2018.