Community Health Centers (CHCs) are multidisciplinary, community-governed health care facilities designed to deliver comprehensive health services, address health disparities and improve access to care for underserved populations. Eye and vision services are greatly underrepresented at CHCs with only 18% of centers providing in-house optometric services. AOA has partnered with the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) to improve access to eye and vision care services at CHCs. Optometry has a unique opportunity to build an entirely new career path for optometrists interested in public health by advocating for and providing eye and vision care services at CHCs. Learn more about Community Health Centers at www.nachc.com. To find a Community Health Center near you log on to www.bphc.hrsa.gov.
A New England College of Optometry student uses a biomicroscope to perform an external eye examination on a patient at the Dorchester House Multi-Service Center.
The AOA Health Center Committee (HCC) is supporting the development of programs and policies associated with optometry at CHCs. The AOA HCC is working to:
- Create a new career path for optometrists interested in working at community health centers by developing a model recruitment and compensation package that can be utilized by CHCs.
- Assure that optometry is included in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) scholarship and loan repayment program.
- Assure that optometry becomes eligible for Graduate Medical Education funding.
- Assist State Optometric Associations and State Primary Care Associations to assure that optometry is included in state loan repayment programs.
- Initiate and communicate the outcomes of a collaborative professional needs assessment for eye and vision services at CHCs.
- Continue to report on progress made with the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC).
- Continue to work with NACHC and other advocates to develop funding opportunities and business plans for health centers interested in adding on-site eye and vision care services.
- Work with the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry to develop affiliation agreements and clinical rotations at CHCs for students and residents.
- Develop presentations for use at national and state meetings on the need for eye and vision care services, and how to start an eye care service at CHCs.
For questions or more information about the work performed by the HCC, please contact Kelli White in the AOA Washington Office, or the Chair of the Health Center Committee, Lillian Kalaczinski, OD.
Attention health center employees:
As we begin preparations for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act it is imperative that we take an inventory of assets on hand particularly as it pertains to eye and vision care at community health centers. The AOA is dedicated toward meeting the anticipated demand for the full complement of essential services set to take effect in 2014, including pediatric vision care, and now seeks your assistance in better understanding this capacity within the U.S. Health Center System.
We ask that you take a few minutes of your time and fill out the linked 10 question "AOA Health Center Survey Monkey" http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NN8HBH6
Your answers will help improve health care access to comprehensive eye and vision care for critically vulnerable populations within our nation's health center system.