Eye Health and Vision Care
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 federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and look-alikes to support the costs of vision equipment and supplies. Since 2018, ACU has assisted twenty-nine FQHCs in establishing and expanding permanent eye health and vision care programs.
A 2021 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 some of the grantees used their funds as well as the impact on patients.
- Summary of Vision Service Program Grantees – overview of the start up or expansion programs for 29 health centers funded by ACU.
- Patient Impact Stories – patients of health centers who received grants from ACU shared the impact that improved access to vision services has had on their life.
Looking for info on the next grant cycle? ACU has disseminated all grants for 2023, and we plan to release details on the 2024 grant cycle later in the year. Sign up for ACU’s newsletter to receive updates.
Technical Assistance to Health Centers
ACU’s Vision Services Committee consists of optometrists, health care administrators, academics, and advocates 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. The 2023 Vision Services Committee roster is now available here!
Do you have any questions about starting up or expanding vision services at your health center? Are you looking to connect with the Vision Services Committee for technical assistance? Please reach out to ACU’s Program Director, Luke Ertle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FQHC and Community Optometry – This Facebook group provides a place for optometrists working in community health centers to connect and discuss the unique challenges they face.
Integrating Eye Health and Vision Care for Underserved Populations into Primary Care Settings, 2020 – This publication by the American Optometric Association and the Association of Clinicians for the Underserved provides information about the current need and best practices for delivering health care services as part of integrated care models
Eyes on Access: ACU, the National Association of Community Health Centers, and Prevent Blindness hosted a four-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 descriptions 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
- Part 3 takes a deeper dive into the feasibility of opening an optometry department within a community health center.
- Part 4 is a deep dive into billing for vision services, this webinar series addresses how health centers can align their billing procedures for vision services with their existing service lines.
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 Program – an 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.
American Optometric Association’s Business Model – this tool walks health centers through how to create a business model when starting up an eye and vision care program.
Optometry in Health Centers Budget and Equipment List – developed by Prevent Blindness, this resource provides a list of equipment necessary for starting up an eye and vision care program and includes cost estimates. Available in both pdf and spreadsheet.
Looking for more info about ACU’s programs or sponsorship opportunities? Please contact ACU’s Program Director, Luke Ertle.