February 11, 2011

Our new clinic is an eye-opener

--This post authored by Health Corps' Tonya Hamilton and medical clinic coordinator Liz Nafziger. Apologies for the headline pun.

Now that Bread for the City’s medical clinic has expanded, our array of health care services is expanding too! Last week, the Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington (POB) set up shop in our new eye-care room. Patients received vision exams and appointments for follow-up care at the Washington Hospital Center (WHC).

For the next six months, POB will work with us to provide patients with comprehensive eye exams (and Spanish translation services too).

Wendy Gasch, the Prevention of Blindness ophthalmologist visiting us from WHC, told us that these kind of vision care services for low-income people are “virtually nonexistent” in the District. POB does operate an eye-care clinic in partnership with the KIDS Mobile Medical Clinic. But So Others Might Eat (SOME) is presently the only other community clinic that provides routine eye care.

Our health insurance system does not adequately provide for eye care, leaving many people unable to pay for even the basics, such as glasses. Medicaid, for instance, only covers new glasses once every two years. A simple everyday accident could leave someone who can’t afford to purchase their own pair (like thousands of our clients) without proper oculation for years!

The cost of this gap in coverage is obvious. If you can’t see, then you can’t read. And if you can’t read, you can’t get or keep a job. Think of the challenges of parenting without proper eyesight; think of the potential risk of accident to oneself or others.

Given the dearth of eye-care resources in our community, Dr. Gasch explained to us and our patients about how you can support your visual health through many of the same practices that are essential to a healthy lifestyle. Exercise, healthy eating habits, not smoking -- these things prevent many eye problems such as macular degeneration, which is caused by diabetes (a very prevalent illness among our client population).

So it goes without saying that we’re thrilled to be finally able to provide this critically-needed service. The eye clinic will occur monthly at the moment, but we hope to expand it in the future. (You can visit our Northwest Center Expansion page to support our efforts to make the eye clinic a permanent feature of Bread for the City! Your donations will bring us closer to full-time vision care)

For this, we’re grateful to the Prevention of Blindness Society for this transitional clinic opportunity. They are the largest agency working for the prevention of blindness in the United States, and have been dedicated since 1936 to serving the eye care needs of low-income and homeless persons. Thank you, POB!

--Thanks to Tonya Hamilton and Liz Nafziger for contributing this post.

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