Objective: This study applied a well-known, recently revised theoretical model of healthcare access and utilization, the Behavioral Model for Vulnerable Populations, to examine the relationship between access to care and utilization of eye care services among a multiethnic, predominately minority sample of residents from low-income public housing.
Design: Population-based, cross-sectional survey of community sample.
Setting: Urban Public Housing Communities in Los Angeles County, California.
Participants: A geographically defined stratified random sample of 152 residents (86% Latino or African American) 40 years of age and older from three urban public housing communities.
Results: Only 62% of our sample of persons 40 years and older had received an eye examination within the past 2 years. Sixty-one percent of participants reported having vision care coverage. Yet, one out of four respondents claimed that no health care provider had ever told them that they needed an eye-examination. Applying multiple logistic regression and controlling for a number of predisposing, enabling, and need-for-care characteristics, the variables 1) receiving advice from health care providers for eye examination (OR = 3.9, p < 0.01), 2) possessing coverage for eye-care (OR = 3.2, p < 0.01), and 3) having regular and continuity of medical care (OR = 2.4, p < 0.01) remained significant predictors of eye-examination within the past 2 years.
Conclusion: This study documents significantly diminished utilization of eye care services relative to recommended guidelines for a low-income, predominately minority sample of residents from public housing communities. We documented no association between presence of diabetes or hypertension and recency of eye examination. Affordability, continuity, and regular sources of care, as well as receiving physician advice, remain the core factors significantly associated with receiving vision care. These results underscore the need for continued efforts to ensure that the medically underserved minority have access to vision care services. These findings also point toward the urgent need for educational and motivational interventions that encourage health care providers serving underserved communities to promote eye examination, particularly among diabetic patients, hypertensive patients, and other individuals at risk for eye-related disease and complications.