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2013 AOA Healthy Eyes Healthy People® grants target eye care needs of diverse populations

August 6, 2013
Saundra Naifeh, Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians executive director, at left, with HEHP grant recipient Ruthie Ruan, O.D.

Saundra Naifeh, Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians executive director, at left, with HEHP grant recipient Ruthie Ruan, O.D.

Again this year, the AOA HEHP program provided grants of up to $5,000 for innovative community outreach projects addressing the vision-related objectives of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s (HHS) Healthy People 2010 public health agenda.

Eye exams for the homeless. Educating Latinos about the ocular effects of diabetes. Rural health fairs for children and their families. These are a few of the 15 projects awarded funding through the AOA’s 2013 Healthy Eyes Healthy People® (HEHP) State Association Grant Program generously funded by Luxottica.

“Healthy Eyes Healthy People® is a program that is committed to improving the vision and health of all Americans,” said James L. Boccuzzi, OD, chair of the Community Grants committee. “The HEHP grants are a tool for optometrists to integrate vision services into community health programs. Access to eye and vision care improves the quality of life for all Americans.”

The grant program is open to any AOA member optometrist who wishes to establish or continue an eye or vision public outreach program conducted in conjunction with an entity outside organized optometry.

The HEHP grants should strengthen the outreach of community-based organizations by providing “seed money” to begin or continue vision-related projects.

Since the HEHP program’s inception in 2004, the AOA has distributed more than $1.2 million in grants for 350 projects addressing diabetes, glaucoma, children’s vision, eye safety, low vision, and other vision-related issues.

“During the past nine years, we have seen the Healthy Eyes Healthy People® projects in action across almost every state in the U.S., with programs ranging from vision care for the homeless to preschool vision screenings and eye disease awareness projects,” said Andrea Dorigo, President, Luxottica USA. “Results have proven that these grassroots community outreach programs not only promote eye and vision health, but in some cases save a person’s vision.”

Listed by state below are the projects (with project coordinators) awarded HEHP grants this year.

  • California – Saving Sight: Pilot Project for Latino Community in Los Angeles Area – Tina MacDonald, O.D. Offers classes in self-management and ocular effects of diabetes to uninsured or underinsured latinos in order to increase public awareness about the sight-threatening effects of diabetes and boost accessibility to comprehensive eye care.
  • Connecticut – Connect-icut Optometry and Children with IEP – Elizabeth McMunn, O.D. Educates teachers, parents and school administrators about the importance of comprehensive eye examinations for children with IEPs in collaboration with the Connecticut Association of School Nurses; Connecticut Association of Occupational Therapists; and Connecticut Educators Association.
  • Idaho – Coeur d’Alene School District Educational Project – Robert Sorensen, O.D. Aims to determine the percentage of students falling behind grade level, particularly in grades 2 through 4, with learning-related vision issues; discover the most prevalent vision conditions in this group; and train the specialists in the school district how to detect the conditions.
  • Illinois – Vision of Hope Health Alliance – Janis Winters, O.D. Provides free primary vision and advanced medical eye care to 1,000 uninsured adults. VOHHA patients receive, at no charge, eye examinations that include dilation, advanced diagnostic testing, eyewear and other related services, such as information on health issues and links to primary care providers.
  • Louisiana – U & Eye – Doug Wilkinson. Educates the employees of the Paragon Casino & Resort about the need to see an optometrist regularly and emphasizes annual eye exams for people with diabetes and those at risk for diabetes. The project also educates a diverse rural population on how optometrists can manage, improve and save vision.
  • Maryland – Mission 20/20 – Nina Doyle, O.D., and Jennifer Levy. A public health campaign focused on improving general health and reducing eye and vision health disparities in Maryland’s most economically disadvantaged racial and ethnic minority communities. The project partners with the Essilor Vision Foundation and VSP.
  • Minnesota – Diabetes and Your Eyes – Beth Coleman, executive director. Broadens awareness, especially among underserved populations, of the importance of preventative and therapeutic eye care for all diabetics and encourages volunteerism by Minnesota Optometric Association members.
  • Nebraska – See To Learn Reinforcement – Alissa Johnson –Aims to increase the number of 3-year-olds across the state who have had a See To Learn assessment, which detects vision disorders that would have otherwise gone unnoticed and reduces visual impairment due to uncorrected refractive error.
  • Nevada – Sight First – Stephanie Lee, O.D. Provides a wealth of services, including comprehensive exams, co-management of ocular and systemic diseases, and surgery in collaboration with Volunteers in Medicine in Southern Nevada, the Lions Eye Foundation, Lion’s Sight First of Southern Nevada, optician program at the College of Southern Nevada, and the Southern Nevada Optometric Association.
  • New Hampshire – Diabetic Eye Exam Initiative – Sarah E Jagatic, O.D. NHOA members provide free dilated eye examinations and education for the uninsured and underinsured to ensure that all of the community health centers’ diabetic populations have annual diabetic eye examinations to help prevent visual impairment due to diabetic retinopathy.
  • New Mexico – KidSight – Jane Compton, O.D. Partners with the Taos Lions to screen children ages 2 to 5 and targets adults and seniors to enhance earlier detection of diabetes eye disease through experimenting with new screening technology while supporting NMOA members in regional hospital health fairs and diabetes clinics.
  • Oklahoma – Eye Exams in Putnam City Schools – Ruthie Ruan, O.D. Educates pre-K to fifth-grade students and their families on the importance of comprehensive eye exams and distributes materials, arranges health fairs to educate parents and staff, provides the training facility and opportunities for school nurses, nursing aids and other staff to learn to identify potential vision problems, and collects questionnaires and follows up on the results of referrals/recommendations.
  • Oregon – C2READ – Rebecca R. Chown, O.D. Identifes potential vision problems in at-risk second-grade students and provides access to comprehensive eye care and glasses in Hood River County.
  • Tennessee – Project Homeless Connect: Focus on Vision Care – Zakiya Nicks, O.D. A collaboration with a one-day service delivery event through which ODs conduct screenings and comprehensive eye exams on more than 200 homeless individuals and offer follow-up care.
  • Washington – Frank Haskell Lions Eye Clinic – Ken Henderson, O.D., and Brian Koning, O.D. Continues to provide no-cost eye care to the uninsured, low-income population in Whatcom County, Wash.

for more information, contact foundation@aoa.org.

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