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Lighthouse International Launches Program For Harlem/East Harlem Seniors

By Jose B. Rivera

NEW YORK, February 11, 2010 - Recognizing that East Harlem and Harlem residents have a very high rate of diabetes but few eyecare facilities in their neighborhoods, Lighthouse International, a leading vision healthcare non-profit serving New Yorkers for more than 100 years, has launched a two-year pilot program called East Harlem: Early Action Saves Sight (EHEASS). The program offers vision education and services to residents 55 years and older who have vision health needs. According to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, adults in East Harlem are 13% more likely to have diabetes than adults in Manhattan (7%) and New York City overall (9%).

“This innovative program will help residents in these communities gain access to vision health services and understand the need for annual eye exams,” said Mark G. Ackermann, President and CEO of Lighthouse International. “Individuals with diabetes could be at-risk for complications, including diabetic retinopathy, which can result in vision impairment and blindness.”

EHEASS is based on the Patient Navigator model developed and used successfully by Dr. Harold P. Freeman for cancer patients. The model is designed to help remove barriers, whether cultural or economic, to obtaining care. Introduced here for the first time for vision care in a community setting, the Lighthouse Patient Navigator will help residents (most of whom are African American and Latino) make eye care appointments, follow-up visits and address other barriers to vision care “Some of these seniors have not had proper eye exams in several years. The Patient Navigator will help them get the vision services they need,” said Andrea Zaldivar, Director, Geriatrics and Diabetes, Lighthouse International.

Diabetes and Vision Loss
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 8.6 million or 18.3% of people age 60 years or older have diabetes. “We recommend that people with diabetes get a comprehensive, dilated eye examination at least once a year. Diabetic eye disease usually has no symptoms, so regular eye exams are important for early detection and timely treatment,” said Dr. Bruce Rosenthal, Chief of Low Vision Programs, Lighthouse International.

About Lighthouse International
Founded in 1905, Lighthouse International is a leading non-profit organization dedicated to fighting vision loss through prevention, treatment and empowerment. It achieves this through clinical and rehabilitation services, education, research and advocacy. For more information about vision loss and its causes, contact Lighthouse International at 1-800-829-0500 or visit http://www.lighthouse.org.

Lighthouse International is a member of IMPACT, a project funded by REACH U.S., a National Centers for Disease Control program to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health. This program was made possible thanks to the generosity of The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Genentech, and the IMPACT Diabetes Coalition.

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