Purpose/Aim: In the United States, high rates of vision impairment and eye disease disproportionately impact those who lack access to eye care, specifically vulnerable populations. The objective of our study was to test instruments, implement protocols, and collect preliminary data for a larger 5-year study, which aims to improve detection of eye diseases and follow-up eye care in vulnerable populations using community health workers (CHW) and patient navigators. In the study, trained CHWs conducted vision screening and patient navigators scheduled on-site eye exams and arranged appointments for those referred to ophthalmology to improve adherence to follow-up eye care.Materials and Methods: Eligible individuals age 40-and-older were recruited from the Riverstone Senior Center in Upper Manhattan, New York City. Participants underwent on-site vision screening (visual acuity with correction, intraocular pressure measurements, and fundus photography). Individuals who failed the vision screening were scheduled with an on-site optometrist for an eye exam; those with ocular pathologies were referred to an ophthalmologist. Participants were also administered the National Eye Institute Visual Function Questionnaire-8 (NEI-VFQ-8) and Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths, and Injuries (STEADI) test by community health workers.Results:Participants (n = 42) were predominantly older adults, with a mean age of 70.0 ± 9.8, female (61.9%), and Hispanic (78.6%). Most individuals (78.6%, n = 33) failed vision screening. Of those who failed, 84.8% (n = 28) attended the on-site eye exam with the optometrist. Ocular diagnoses: refractive error 13/28 (46.4%), glaucoma/glaucoma suspect 9/28 (32.1%), cataract 7/28 (25.0%), retina abnormalities 6/28 (21.4%); 13 people required eyeglasses.Conclusion: This study demonstrates the feasibility of using CHWs and patient navigators for reducing barriers to vision screening and optometrist-based eye exams in vulnerable populations, ultimately improving early detection of eye disease and linking individuals to additional eye care appointments. The full five-year study aims to further examine these outcomes.
Keywords: Glaucoma detection; access to eye care; community-based; vision screening; vulnerable populations.