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A Clearer View of Eye Disease

Posted by Battelle Insider on May 21, 2018

When you think of eye health, you probably think of visits to an eye doctor. You may not be thinking about all the work that goes into better understanding eye diseases and how to treat or even cure them. 

Eye disease can affect anyone, but certain individuals may be more at risk. Detailed population-based studies can provide policymakers and healthcare providers with information needed to support the early detection of debilitating conditions like glaucoma and macular degeneration. These visual impairment and eye disease studies monitor the progression of disease in specific ethnic and age groups to determine if different populations are at higher risk. 

A successful study requires a great field collection team. Members of the team often can speak more than one language so that they can effectively communicate with diverse populations. Their efforts include screening households in the target census tracts, enrolling eligible participants, conducting in-home interviews, scheduling participants for eye exams with researchers, and tracing participants who move between study waves. And to ensure participants make it to their appointments, the team coordinates transportation and provides appointment reminders.

Battelle has conducted this type of data collection effort for the National Institutes of Health for more than two decades under contract to the University of Southern California, recruiting participants to complete more than 30,000 eye exams. 

The work is having real-world impact. 

The Los Angeles Latino Eye Study contributed to the expansion of the Medicare glaucoma screening benefit to cover Latinos aged 65 and older. This early screening is an important step in preventing later blindness. 

“I have a strong interest in justice and equity,” said Lisa John, Ph.D., PMP, Battelle Program Manager. “It’s rewarding to be a part of a project that’s having such a major impact and leading to policy change.” 

The recently completed African American Eye Disease Study, for which Battelle recruited more than 6,300 participants, is the largest epidemiologic eye study among African Americans to date. This study will provide important information about the prevalence and risk factors of eye disease among African Americans, and will inform prevention, and targeted screening and treatment programs. It also examined factors that influence obtaining care, enabling healthcare providers and policymakers to address these factors and improve eye health in this population.

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