National Center Updates

By Samantha Salcedo, MPH Candidate, Northwestern University

Verian Wedeking is the program director of the Casey Eye Community Outreach Program at Oregon Health and Science University. During the recent seminar on “Reimaging How we Engage Communities from Identification into Care” hosted by Prevent Blindness, he discussed the program’s mission and work to eliminate preventable blindness across Oregon.

Currently, Casey Eye provides vision screenings and statewide support to over 35 community organizations through mobile clinical outreach and training of community health workers to become vision health navigators. Wedeking also highlighted the multi-faceted telehealth program, which allows Casey Eye to track individual participants after a preliminary vision screening and through their continuum of care across different providers and medical homes. This comprehensive program relies on multiple branches of Casey Eye’s services to increase access to care, including:

  1. Increasing access to vision services across communities. Casey Eye partners with community organizations and provides advanced imaging equipment to locations across Oregon.
  2. Pairing free, in-person vision screenings with telehealth care. Patients receive a free vision screening at their community site and then meet with an eye specialist via telehealth.
  3. Addressing barriers with mobile outreach. If a patient faces barriers accessing services, mobile units will visit telehealth sites every 4 months to provide additional support.
  4. Supporting follow-up care through local care coordination. Trained community health workers and vision advocates can help patients access additional ophthalmology or optometry care after their screening.

When evaluating program impact, Casey Eye looks beyond program efficacy and seeks insight on how to improve intervention effectiveness. They examine the number of referrals received, and the eye health education classes provided through mobile outreach. Local partnerships are key to this success; Casey Eye works to have a wide representation of community partners. Funding is secured locally.

Wedeking concluded by emphasizing the significance of the health infrastructure that Casey Eye is creating for their patients. Mobile outreach, care coordination, and telehealth cannot succeed independently, he says. Together, however, they are key components of Casey Eye’s holistic work to eliminate vison health inequity and increase access to eye care.

The link to the session, “Reimaging How We Engage Communities from Identification into Care” can be found here.

By N’tuma Kamara, MPH Candidate, The George Washington University   

Mayhoua Moua is the Executive Director and co-founder of the Milwaukee Consortium for Hmong Health, Inc, a nonprofit that connects Southeast Asian immigrants and refugees to healthcare services in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Hmong Health trains community health workers (CHWs) with the same ethnic and linguistic backgrounds as the populations it serves to provide outreach to those who cannot independently navigate the health system. CHWs inform individuals about health services that are available to them and act as their advocates during visits with care providers. In 2018, Hmong Health partnered with Prevent Blindness to ensure that Southeast Asian communities in Milwaukee were able to access eye care.

Moua shed light on the cultural and language considerations Hmong Health tackles in its work with different Southeast Asian groups, each having a unique dialect. The challenges and strategies utilized are summarized below:

  1. Educational materials are visual, with few words. Many Southeast Asian immigrants and refugees are from rural areas in their home countries, where they have little to no exposure to medical services. They also have low health literacy and a limited understanding of health-protective behaviors. Therefore, educational handouts are designed to be visually descriptive.
  2. Emphasis is placed on communicating information orally, including health-related topics. Hmong Health serves five Southeast Asian populations, each with a distinct language. Some of these languages have words and expressions that do not have equivalency in English and are better communicated orally by a translator.
  3. Attending community events. Hmong Health raises awareness about its services at events hosted in Southeast Asian communities. It utilizes word of mouth to connect with individuals and show itself as an available resource.
  4. Translators are made available at appointments. Vision clinics do not typically have translator services. Hmong Health CHWs act both as advocates and translators for clients.

Currently, Hmong Health still needs a vision health-specific curriculum for its population. Tailoring a curriculum to the five languages it serves will be an arduous task. However, Moua looks forward to doing this all-important work in collaboration with Prevent Blindness.

The link to the session, “Reimaging How We Engage Communities from Identification into Care” can be found here.

By Jessica Johnson, MPH Candidate, The George Washington University

Mercedes Hernández, MPH, CHES, the Director of Child and Family Health of the East Coast Migrant Head Start Project, recently spoke on her work during the 2023 Focus on Eye Health Summit. In her current role, she helps provide early childhood education services to families of agricultural and migrant workers. The East Coast Migrant Project has 48 campuses in 10 different states that serve approximately 3,000 children.

The overall goal of the East Coast Migrant Head Start Project is to provide a holistic education in a culturally sensitive environment. Many agricultural working families tend to migrate to different states to find work in the agricultural business. As a result, children that tend to qualify for Medicaid coverage in one state might not have coverage in another. This results in a percentage of children being left uncovered.

Hernández shared various ways her project has taken social determinants of health into consideration, and how they have overcome barriers to healthcare and eyecare:

  1. Having staff interact with community partners to figure out the community needs.
  2. Using family and health coordinators as liaisons to overcome barriers.
  3. Providing access to evening clinics so that agricultural workers do not have to take time off from work to receive care.
  4. Planning in advance what months to have the clinics open for the most effective intervention.
  5. Opening clinics close to state borders for migrants to have easier access.

The key takeaway messages for getting individuals and families to receive eye care included:

  1. Working with partners helps community healthcare organizations understand the barriers, interests, and needs of migrant farmworker families.
  2. One size does not fit all for every aspect of healthcare.
  3. Be flexible, creative, and work with community partners to meet the specific needs of the population.

The link to the session, “Reimaging How We Engage Communities from Identification into Care” can be found here.

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