The University of Alabama at Birmingham received a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to initiate a glaucoma-screening program at two local Walmart locations. The initiative’s primary goal is to facilitate earlier glaucoma detection in a high-risk population––namely, blacks age 40 and older.

“Our current model of eye care is simply not reaching one of the most at-risk populations for glaucoma: older African Americans,” says Christopher Girkin, M.D., chair of UAB’s Department of Ophthalmology and screening program director. “Historically, this is an underserved population, who are less likely to seek professional eye care services in a standard clinical setting. So, we’re going to see if we can take appropriate vision care to them.”

The two-year research program will install optical coherence tomography devices in independent optometry offices located alongside Walmart Vision Centers in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. During the screening program, OCT images will be transmitted electronically to an image analysis database established at UAB’s Department of Ophthalmology.

If signs of glaucoma are detected, “Patients will get their diagnosis, medicines and follow-up treatment by licensed optometrists located adjacent to the Walmart Vision Center,” Dr. Girkin added. Patients with advanced glaucoma or significant concomitant ocular disease will be referred to the UAB glaucoma service, Callahan Eye Hospital Lions Eye Clinic or the Jefferson County Cooper Green Mercy Hospital Eye Clinic.