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EyeSmart™ EyeCheck Combats Undetected Eye Disease and Visual Impairment

05/01/2010   12:00:00 PM

New Vision Screening Model to be Tested by the American Academy of Ophthalmology

SAN FRANCISCO–The American Academy of Ophthalmology and its partners today launched a new initiative, EyeSmart EyeCheck, to combat undetected eye disease and visual impairment among at-risk populations in the United States. The announcement comes as new research from the Los Angeles Latino Eye Study (LALES) shows that Latinos have higher rates of visual impairment, blindness, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts than non-Hispanic whites.

“What’s important about the LALES research is that it underscores the fact that eye disease affecting quality of life remains undetected in far too many individuals,” said David W. Parke II, MD, CEO of the Academy. “Vision is one of our most valued and precious senses. Even seemingly small degrees of visual impairment can impact our daily activities, mobility and quality of life. It does not have to be this way, and ophthalmologists are going to do something about it.”

Through the new EyeSmart EyeCheck initiative, the Academy and its partners will work to raise awareness and understanding of the impact of eye disease and visual impairment, particularly among minority populations who disproportionately lack access to care. The initial emphasis will be on the Latino community. Working with state ophthalmology and subspecialty societies, hospitals and eye institutes and community organizations, the Academy’s EyeSmart EyeCheck will:

  • Test a screening methodology for adults, focusing on detecting damage from eye disease rather than screening for eye disease. Studies suggest that this approach may work.
  • Pilot and facilitate free screenings to help identify undiagnosed visual impairment and eye disease among populations at greatest risk and with limited access to health care services (the first screening will be in July in the Los Angeles area).
  • Build and host a national inventory of community eye screenings that use the EyeCheck approach at geteyesmart.org/findaneyecheck.
  • Provide referrals to eye care and bi-lingual eye health information at the screenings as well as online.

As reported in the May 2010 issue of the American Journal of Ophthalmology, the LALES findings reveal the high incidence of visual impairment and high rates of worsening of visual acuity in Latino individuals. These rates are higher than any other racial/ethnic group studied in the United States. LALES is supported by the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of health.

“The study shows that it’s not just a single eye disease. It is a host of undetected eye diseases, each of which has a significant impact on the quality of vision and quality of life among people,” said Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, principal investigator of LALES and director of the Ocular Epidemiology Center at the Doheny Eye Institute, University of Southern California.

The incidence of multiple diseases in this community and in other at-risk populations is what prompted the Academy to adopt and promote a different approach to adult vision screenings.

“Traditional adult vision screenings typically screen for a specific disease like glaucoma or cataracts,” said Anne L. Coleman, MD, PhD, director of the Academy’s H. Dunbar Hoskins Jr., MD, Center for Quality Eye Care, and the Fran and Ray Stark Professor of Ophthalmology and Professor of Epidemiology at the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute. “To get the greatest benefit from a screening, it makes sense to screen broadly for functional impairment in a sequential process of elimination. This allows us to screen more individuals in a given time period, much like triage in an ER, where more serious cases are quickly referred on for care.”

“Finding eye disease is an important first step,” said Robert Smyth-Medina, MD, an ophthalmologist from Los Angeles and a clinical correspondent for the Academy. “EyeSmart EyeCheck is taking the next step by linking patients with care options.”

The Academy’s EyeSmart EyeCheck program will be working with EyeCare America and local health departments and community clinics to provide sources for care once a diagnosis is made. EyeCare America, a service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, offers free eye care services to qualifying patients. Patients are referred to one of 7,000 volunteering ophthalmologists across the country. In addition, EyeSmart EyeCheck will work with local hospitals, community clinics and health departments to steer patients to treatment.

Screenings will be coordinated at the local level with the support of state and local ophthalmology organizations, hospitals and community partners. The first pilot screening will take place July 25 in partnership with the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute, the USC Doheny Eye Institute, the California Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons, the Los Angeles Society of Ophthalmology and QueensCare, a non-profit healthcare charity offering health care services to the Los Angeles community and sponsor of the health fair.

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About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
AAO is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons—Eye M.D.s—with more than 29,000 members worldwide.  Eye health care is provided by the three “O’s” – opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who can treat it all: eye diseases and injuries, and perform eye surgery. To find an Eye M.D. in your area, visit the Academy's Web site at www.aao.org

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