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Keywords

Barriers to care; Blindness; Comprehensive eye care; Eye – Examination; Health education; Older African Americans – Medical care; Vision

Abstract

Objective: Blindness rates among older African Americans are two times higher than for older whites. Our purpose was to understand attitudes about eye care and perceived barriers to care among older African Americans living in rural Alabama and to determine whether an educational program reduced perceived barriers to care. InCHARGE, an eye health education program for older African Americans, promotes eye disease prevention by conveying the personal benefits of annual dilated comprehensive eye care and by teaching strategies to minimize barriers to eye care.

Design and Participants: InCHARGE was presented in five senior centers to 111 individuals. Using a questionnaire before and three months after InCHARGE, we evaluated what impact InCHARGE had on attitudes and knowledge about prevention and strategies for reducing barriers.

Results: Before InCHARGE, 52.3% reported receiving an eye examination in the past year. Almost all indicated that they felt finding, getting to, and communicating with a doctor were not problems yet about one-quarter indicated that the cost of an examination and/or eyeglasses were problems. After InCHARGE the percentage saying that cost was a problem increased to almost half.

Conclusions: Older African Americans in rural Alabama have positive attitudes about comprehensive eye care, yet only about half reported receiving an exam by an eye care provider in the past year. The cost of care is a barrier for many, a problem that was not mitigated by InCHARGE. In order to improve eye health in this population, eye health education initiatives are not enough; economic strategies must be implemented to address the cost barrier.