Eye Health and Vision Care

Eye Exam Chart

ACU is currently accepting applications for our 2023 grant opportunity. Read our flyer for more details and grant requirements. Apply here

Vision loss has been shown to cause substantial social and economic tolls, emotional suffering, social isolation, loss of productivity, and diminished quality of life. Despite the importance of vision and eye health on one’s quality of life, many people continue to face barriers to accessing the proper eye and vision care.

With the generous support of the Centene Foundation for Quality Healthcare, the ACU is working with local, state, and national partners to increase access to the proper eye and vision care for underserved populations. We do this by bringing mobile vision vans to underserved communities, providing grants and technical assistance to health centers to help establish permanent eye and vision programs at service sites, and educating communities of underserved populations.

Mobile Vision Clinics

Since 2017, ACU has partnered with schools and health centers to provide over 3500 vision exams through mobile vision clinics. Over 56% of the people who had an examination at a mobile vision clinic needed prescription glasses which were provided in the days following the events.

Startup and Expansion Grants for Permanent Eye Health and Vision Clinics

The provision of on-site, comprehensive eye and vision care speaks directly to the mission of health centers to provide primary, preventive health care services. As such ACU provides small grants to health centers to support the costs of vision equipment and supplies. Since 2018, ACU has assisted nineteen health centers in establishing and expanding permanent eye health and vision care programs.

A recent grantee of the program, PrimaryOne Health in Columbus, Ohio, used funds to support the purchase of an optical coherence tomography (OCT) machine for their East Main Street location. This machine is currently being used to diagnose and help treat individuals with glaucoma and retinal diseases like age-related macular degeneration and diabetic eye disease. It has expanded and enhanced their ability to provide comprehensive care for their vulnerable patient population of individuals from communities disproportionately impacted by these issues.

“Having to refer our patients to another site meant that we were sometimes exacerbating the transportation, scheduling, and/or financial barriers faced by the patients. In the area served by the site, nearly 33% of the population is considered low income, and 59.2% of the population is at or below 138% of the federal poverty line and/or uninsured. Referring our patients elsewhere would significantly decrease the likelihood that our patients would go on to receive the follow-up care they need at a price they could afford. By providing low-cost vision care services to our patients, we can ensure that they have access to quality eye care, regardless of their ability to pay.”

– Gregary Graves, OD

PrimaryOne Health, Columbus, OH

Click the links below to learn more how each of the nineteen grantees used their funds as well as the impact on patients.

Technical Assistance to Health Centers

ACU’s Vision Services Committee is made up of optometrists and health care administrators from across the country who are committed to increasing access to eye health and vision care for underserved populations. ACU works closely with the Committee to address the technical assistance needs of health centers to support successful and sustainable programs.  View the Vision Services Committee roster here.


Integrating Eye Health and Vision Care for Underserved Populations into Primary Care Settings, 2020 publication by the American Optometric Association and the Association of Clinicians for the Underserved to provide information about the current need and best practices for delivering health care services as part of integrated care models

From Start Up to Success: Eye Health and Vision Care Programs at Health Centers – a workshop recording from ACU’s 2021 Annual Conference that covers development of a sustainable business model, conducting comprehensive eye exams, building in care coordination, and engaging in patient education and outreach.

Eyes on Access: ACU, the National Association of Community Health Centers, and Prevent Blindness hosted a two-part webinar series for health centers to learn strategies and models of investment from vision care experts and peers from health centers across the country.  See links to webinars as well as description below

  • Part 1 reviewed the interconnection of vision, chronic disease and quality of life. Learners will review the data substantiating community needs, disparities and barriers.
  • Part 2 reviewed the operational activities necessary to implement or enhance vision services in a health center. Learners will review planning factors such as provider configuration, cost, volume and supervision

Vision Services Readiness Assessment, 2020 – a short questionnaire for health centers to assess their readiness to start an eye health and vision care program. Assessment results include resources such as a vision equipment cost calculator

The National Eye Institute’s National Eye Health Education Programan extensive library of patient education resources and tools in different languages

Integrating Eye Services into Primary Care, 2021 developed by Prevent Blindness, this resource includes recommendations and a sample business plan for health centers.

More Information

To learn more about ACU’s programs or sponsorship opportunities, please contact Luke Ertle.