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California’s Western U InSight Children’s Eye Care Program helps women, families and children

November 29, 2012

Staffing the WINGS program, from left, are Jenica Morin-Pascual, outreach trainer/intern supervisor for the YWCA San Gabriel Valley; Miki Carpenter, Ph.D., MPH, director of Assessment and Program Development for Western U; Kristy Remick, O.D., director of Community Outreach; student Liza Smith; David Todd, O.D.; student Maryann Youssef; Jasmine Yumori, O.D.; and student Sharis Gharabeki.

The Western University of Health Sciences (Western U) College of Optometry was a 2012 recipient of the Healthy Eyes Healthy People® (HEHP) grant by the AOA and Optometry Cares® – The AOA Foundation for its Western U InSight Children’s Eye Care Program.

The overall goal of the program was to increase the number of children, especially those age 5 years and younger, who receive an annual comprehensive eye exam, as a result of community engagement and education.

Health professionals engaging communities, populations

The key message for ODs from this program is that health professionals should actively engage targeted communities and educate parents about their children’s eye health in meaningful ways. This is especially important when addressing health disparities and hard-to-reach populations.

In support of the Western U InSight Children’s Eye Care Program, an outreach event was held in early October in collaboration with the YWCA San Gabriel Valley, which operates the WINGS Program (Women in Need Growing Stronger), a domestic violence shelter, outreach, and education program.

The YWCA WINGS program emphasizes health education with women and families in critical need of housing and basic needs.

There is a critical need for eye care services because many YWCA clients have school-age children and have been unable to get them regular eye care.

Western U students and faculty members provided eye exams to children and adults at one health intervention and education event, and health and safety education was provided by other partner agencies for accessing additional services.

The event was a partnership project between the Western U College of Optometry, WIC (Women, Infants & Children nutrition program), Headstart (early education program), Project Sister Family Services, the host city and police department, among many others.

For this hard-to-reach population, free services do not always result in high demand; however, by working with trusted community partners, this event was a success, and more than 100 parents and children participated. A follow-up event was scheduled two weeks following the original event to provide additional care and/or eyeglasses to those who needed them.

Western U has also provided similar services to children residing in a low-income housing complex in a nearby community.

Comprehensive eye exams, eyeglasses, and education were provided to participating families, and as a result, there are plans to implement this program at other similar facilities for the 2012-2013 academic year.

Interventions that reach out to those most in need are of primary importance to the California Optometric Association (COA) and Western U.

It is anticipated that the Western U InSight Children’s Eye Care Program will continue because the critical need of obtaining eye care impacts learning, school performance and adult employability in the targeted communities.

The Western U InSight Children’s Eye Care Program outreach event was made possible by an AOA foundation state grant and has impacted the lives of many individuals who may not have otherwise been reached.

Congratulations to Miki Carpenter, Ph.D., MPH, and the COA for receiving a HEHP grant for the Western U InSight Children’s Eye Care Program.

Dr. Carpenter is the director of assessment and program development, College of Optometry – Western University of Health Sciences.

HEHP funding was made possible through a generous grant from Luxottica.

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