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C. Owsley, J. Weston, B. T. Stalvey, G. McGwin, Jr., K. Searcey, C. A. Girkin; Educating Older African Americans in Alabama About the Preventive Importance of Routine Comprehensive Eye Care. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2008;49(13):629.
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InCHARGE is an eye health education program tailored for older African Americans that promotes the importance of the annual, dilated comprehensive eye examination by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. The curriculum is based on the results of focus groups with older African Americans and the eye care providers that serve their communities (IOVS 2006;47:2797-2802). It is a 30-45 minute interactive presentation delivered by a health educator in a group setting. InCHARGE embodies an empowerment model and addresses the personal benefits of prevention, what is a dilated comprehensive eye exam, common eye problems in older African Americans, and how to remove barriers to receiving care (e.g., finding transportation, building trust/communication skills with the doctor). This study was the first step in evaluating InCHARGE in terms of whether it imparted knowledge.
InCHARGE was delivered at 5 senior centers in metropolitan Montgomery, Alabama. Prior to the program, a questionnaire addressing attitudes and beliefs about routine comprehensive eye care was completed by attendees. Three months after InCHARGE a telephone survey repeated the questionnaire and asked for reactions to and comments about the InCHARGE presentation and information on eye care utilization since the event.
85 African Americans (M age 77 yrs, range 52-100) attended an InCHARGE event. At baseline most (>85%) said that it would not be hard for them to find an eye doctor and that the exam cost was not a problem. 25% said that they had problems finding a way to get to the doctor and that the cost of eyeglasses was a problem. 44% reported not having an eye exam by an eye care provider in the past year; 13% reported not having one within 2 years. Three months after InCHARGE when the questionnaire was repeated there was an increased number of participants who reported that they could find a way to get to the doctor. 72% said that since the InCHARGE event, they either had received a comprehensive eye exam or had scheduled an appointment. When asked what they had learned from the InCHARGE event, comments indicated that the key message of InCHARGE was successfully imparted to most.
Older African Americans living in the urban South had generally positive attitudes about eye care, even before the eye health education class. Transportation to appointments is a problem for many; after InCHARGE it was identified less frequently as a problem. The next step is to verify through medical record review the extent to which self-report of eye care utilization following InCHARGE reflects actual behavior.
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