Community health centers (CHCs) have an impressive record of addressing health disparities through consistently delivering high-quality and affordable care in a culturally competent manner, while also producing cost savings to the nation's healthcare system. Thus CHCs are optimally positioned to reduce visual health disparities and improve visual health outcomes by being included in the primary care services that they deliver. An estimated three million health center patients have risk factors for vision disorders and eye disease, yet a recent policy briefing survey conducted by The George Washington University reported that about 20 percent of centers provide on-site eye and vision care.
This study describes the issues associated with addressing health disparities, improving visual health outcomes, and delivering high-quality and affordable care and comprehensive services at CHCs.
Susan A. Primo, OD, MPH, is Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Director, Vision and Optical Services at the Emory Eye Center, Atlanta, Georgia.
Roger Wilson, OD, is Vice President, Health Center Programs at New England Eye Institute, Boston, Massachusetts.
James W. Hunt, Jr, MUA, is President and Chief Executive of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, Boston.
Jan L. Cooper, OD, is Adjunct Clinical Instructor, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Department of Ophthalmology, Loma Linda, California.
Daniel Desrivieres, OD, is Director of Optometry at the Neighborhood Health Services Center, Plainfield, New Jersey, and also with Newark Community Health Center, Newark, New Jersey.
Linda D. Johnson, OD, is Director of Optometry, Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center, Jackson, Mississippi.
Lillian Kalaczinski, OD, is Director of Optometry, Cherry Street Health Services, and is Adjunct Clinical Faculty, Michigan College of Optometry, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Corresponding Author: Susan A. Primo, OD, MPH, Department of Ophthalmology, Emory University School of Medicine, 1365B Clifton Rd, NE, Atlanta, GA 30322 (email@example.com).
This briefing is related to the ongoing work of the American Optometric Association's Community Health Center Committee to improve access to eye care for medically underserved populations, in conjunction with expert contributions from a leading authority in health policy and community health center programs.
The authors thank Dr John Whitener and Mr Rodney Peele for their advice and review of this manuscript.
Dr Primo is supported in part by NIH NEI Grants EY06360 and an unrestricted grant from Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc.