First Diabetes Day Reveals Pressing Need for Eye Care

Diabetes has reached an epidemic level in California and it’s only growing worse. Amidst alarming rates of amputations and budget-busting treatment costs for families and taxpayers, The Anthem Blue Cross, California Optometric Association, California Primary Care Association, and Peach Tree Health have partnered to form a coalition dedicated to saving lives and saving eyes. To launch our new partnership to combat diabetes and its toll on lives and vision, the first Diabetes Day was held at Peach Tree health clinic in Sacramento in April. Anthem Blue Cross of California invited 500 diabetic patients to receive comprehensive eye examinations as part of a diabetes screening that also included a physical exam and bloodwork.

The number of patients who presented with serious eye and vision problems was quite shocking. Of the 42 patients seen by Peach Tree’s in-house optometry team, nearly 25% had diabetic retinopathy, and over 50% had visually significant cataracts. 40% had glaucoma or were suspects for glaucoma. In other words, in a single day, we saw a lot of very sick people. It’s disheartening to see so many people with such advanced eye disease, when we know such conditions are preventable. But our experience has made us even more determined to work together to save lives and save eyes.

Getting the at-risk patients through the door is one enormous hurdle; keeping them connected to care is another. Peach Tree is now doing the challenging work of scheduling follow-up procedures with patients who need specialty care to restore or preserve their vision and get a handle on their diabetes.

With new research showing going blind is Americans’ number one fear when it comes to their health, the opportunity for an eye exam is a compelling reason for patients to access care that might otherwise seem out of reach.

We invite you to learn more about our efforts and to participate as our coalition reaches further into California communities with innovative and live-saving strategies. To learn more or participate in our efforts, contact Kara Corches at kcorches@coavision.org.

By: Sage Hider, OD, President, California Optometric Association