Interventional efforts may help reduce barriers to eye care for underserved populations. Photo: CDC.

Poor health literacy and inadequate health education are barriers to proper eye care for the underserved population. A recent study examined short- and long-term eye health knowledge retention following eye health education interventions in adults through community outreach vision screenings.

Vision Detroit, one such outreach vision screening program, integrated a five-point teaching intervention consisting of eye health learning points developed to verbally educate patients (Table 1). It targeted concepts such as the asymptomatic nature of many eye diseases, the connection with systemic health and the preventability of blindness. During the vision screenings, eye health knowledge tests were administered to 217 patients before and after the five-point teaching intervention (tests one and two, respectively).

The five-point teaching intervention was effective for improving test two scores in all patients, regardless of age, gender, race, education or insurance status. “Our study found older age was positively associated with increased test one scores, similar to prior work,” the authors explained. “Older patients are more likely to have been exposed to relevant information as ocular disease tends to affect this group more.”

When considering education status, there was a difference in eye health knowledge. An educational intervention performed prior to the screening significantly increased patients’ test one scores, indicating the effectiveness of this approach in improving long-term learning.

“We demonstrated a method to verbally deliver teaching points to significantly improve both short- and long-term health knowledge retention in all patients, regardless of education level,” the authors wrote in their paper for Ophthalmic Epidemiology. “Verbal administration of the five-point teaching intervention also overcomes potential sight barriers and provides an opportunity for open discussion.”

It should be noted that the study was not conducted by physicians, which the authors say may have allowed patients to feel more at ease than if they were interacting with physicians in an unfamiliar setting.

“This study demonstrated that a simple verbal educational intervention is an effective way of increasing patients’ eye health knowledge retention, both short- and long-term, regardless of patient education status, insurance, race, gender or age,” the authors concluded. They argue that eye health education via community outreach can foster sustained public interest in and use of eyecare services.

Table 1. Vision Detroit Five-Point Teaching Intervention

1. People can have blinding eye conditions without warning signs. 
2. People can have blinding eye conditions without pain. 
3. Good care of diabetes and high blood pressure can protect your vision. 
4. Eye doctors can help diagnose diabetes, high blood pressure and other diseases with an eye exam. 
5. Blindness can be preventable. 

Goyal A, Richards C, Freedman RL. The Vision Detroit Project: integrated screening and community eye health education interventions improve eye care awareness. Ophthalmic Epidemiol. September 29, 2022. [Epub ahead of print].