159044 Eyes first: Eye exams as a gateway to diabetes care for the medically underserved

Monday, November 5, 2007

Dewana Allen, MPH , Eye Care Community Outreach Program, Indianapolis, IN
John F. Yannessa, PhD , Department of HPER, Coastal Carolina University, Conway, SC
Edwin C. Marshall, OD, MPH , School of Optometry, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
Kelli Barker, MSW , Eye Care Community Outreach Program, Indianapolis, IN
Diabetes continues to be a national health concern. Despite prioritization in Healthy People 2010, diabetes prevalence continues to grow in the United States especially among medically underserved people. Past research indicates that community outreach programs designed to identify people living with diabetes has historically been led by medical staff such as nurses. Less published research has focused on the importance of eye health as a component of community health programs designed to detect diabetes and diabetes related eye disease. The purpose of this research is to highlight the importance of an eye exam as a diagnostic tool and as a gateway to care for medically underserved people. As part of an Eye Care Community Outreach (ECCO) program, 1406 medically underserved people were screened for eye health, including screening for early signs of diabetes. A free eye exam served as a central component of the intervention. Nearly 40 % (n = 528) of those screened had symptoms of diabetes that might have remained undetected or untreated had the person not attended the screenings. A smaller number (n = 81) presented with diabetic retinopathy, with over 45% (n = 45) being new diagnoses. Individuals with disease were then offered low or no cost access to medical care providers. These results may offer insight into planning innovative community based programs designed to identify diabetic individuals and link them to care sources. Further, they may suggest that eye health exams be considered a vital component of community programs designed to address the diabetes epidemic.

Learning Objectives:
1.Learn the importance of eye exams as a diabetes early detection tool. 2.Understand the role of eye health professionals in diabetic care. 3.Discover an innovative approach to address the diabetes epidemic in medically underserved populations.

Keywords: Access to Health Care, Health Disparities

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.