Working in Appalachia and Harlem, serving toddlers and seniors, the 2011 Healthy Vision Community Awards (HVCA) winners are committed to making eye health and vision priorities in their communities. HVCA, sponsored by the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health, is a unique program that provides awards up to $10,000 to make a difference in communities across the Nation by supporting grassroots eye health education. This seed money supplies the spark that gets projects started, which are then sustained through community partnerships.
Past awardees attest to this. "To say that HVCA funding has benefited our children and families is an understatement. We've expanded screening and care management programs, and conducted significant community outreach. HVCA has enabled us to reach thousands of families with a lasting positive effect," said Holly Remer, executive director, Healthy Beginnings, Bend, Ore.
HVCA, established in 2003, is a federal program that provides funding directly to communities to improve eye health awareness. Seed money goes to nonprofit and community-based organizations (CBOs) to implement innovative programs or expand existing services to new groups. These types of organizations are often understaffed and underfunded, with little access to funding for education programs. Without HVCA, some would not have the resources to include eye health and vision in their existing programs. Others would not be able to reach and educate higher risk groups, such as people with diabetes and low-income earners.
"Through HVCA, NEI has forged a direct link to the grassroots level, which is where education can make a difference in peoples' lives by reducing the risk of vision loss and blindness," said Rosemary Janiszewski, NEI spokesperson for the HVCA Program. Selected projects focus on underserved populations, addressing health disparities and filling gaps in service for the uninsured, non-native English speakers, and others. "Many groups may be unaware of the importance of eye health and the risks to their vision, so it is critical to reach out and educate them on the need to protect their vision," noted Janiszewski.
Many HVCA projects target higher risk racial and ethnic groups. "We are very excited to receive funding to hire community health workers who will focus on eye health. This is a much-needed service for the migrant farmworker community and low-income Hispanic population in our area," said Dawn Wells, grant specialist, Tulare Community Health Clinic, Calif., a 2011 HVCA awardee. Although HVCA is competitive, there are few restrictions on who can apply for the award. Nonprofit organizations, including CBOs, churches, schools, civic and fraternal groups, and local government health departments and agencies on aging, are eligible. Applicants must demonstrate sustainability of the proposed program after the funding ends through community collaborations.
Following are the 15 2011 HVCA recipients:
- Therapeutic Living Centers for the Blind, Resea, Calif., for the Vision Screening and Education Program.
- Tulare Community Health Clinic, Tulare, Calif., for the Healthy Vision Promotora Project.
- Blindness Prevention Program of the Stout Street Eye Clinic, Denver.
- J.C. Lewis Primary Healthcare Center, Inc., Savannah, Ga., for the Diabetic Vision Health Program for the Homeless and Uninsured.
- North Central Kentucky Area Health Education Center, Park Hills, for Hispanic Awareness Glaucoma Project/Proyecto Hispanico de Educacion en Glaucoma.
- St. Joseph Health System, Tawas City, Mich., for the Don't Lose Focus project.
- Missouri Lions Eye Research Foundation, Columbia, for Promoting Glaucoma Detection Screenings to the Hispanic Population.
- Lighthouse International, New York, N.Y., for Empowering Senior Center Staff to Facilitate Retinal Exams in High-Risk Older Adult Communities in Harlem and East Harlem.
- North Dakota Optometric Association, Bismarck, for Eating for Your Eyes II: Diabetic Retinopathy.
- New View Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, for the Adapted Type 2 Diabetes Education Program for Persons with Vision Impairment.
- El Paso Diabetes Association, Brentwood, Texas, to conduct the Diabetic Eye Disease Education and Poster Contest.
- TEAMability, Inc., San Antonio, for Implementing Rehabilitation for Children Having Cortical Visual Impairments: CVI Challenge.
- Fourth Street Clinic, Salt Lake City, for the Diabetes Eye Disease Education and Prevention Program for Homeless Utahns.
- Rural Health Outreach Program, Arrington, Va., of the Blue Ridge Medical Center.
- The Larry Joe Harless Community Center, Gilbert, W. Va., for the Rural Appalachian Vision and Eye Screening (RAVE) program.
Visit www.nei.nih.gov/hvca for more information about the HVCA program and to learn more about these projects.
The National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, leads the federal government's research on the visual system and eye diseases. NEI supports basic and clinical science programs that result in the development of sight-saving treatments. For more information, visit www.nei.nih.gov.