In Ventura County, California, USA, more than 26 percent of adults have diabetes, soaring above the national rate of 13 percent. Diabetes also accounts for nearly seven percent of hospitalizations in Ventura County. Because of these rates, inevitably, diabetic retinopathy is of great concern.
Vision at Serious Risk
Caused by a chronically high blood sugar level, diabetic retinopathy may not cause any symptoms early on. However, if left untreated, it can lead to total and irreversible blindness.
Early detection is key to stopping the progression of diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy can be deceiving, as it may begin simply with blurred vision. Without access to the technology that can detect it, one might not be overly concerned about blurred vision, or understand more concerning damage is occurring to their eyes.
Early detection is key to stopping the progression of diabetic retinopathy. With awareness of the problem, one can prevent further damage by managing their diabetes, keeping blood pressure and cholesterol under control, and paying attention to vision changes.
Recognizing a growing concern in Ventura County, the Lions-Anthem Foundation Healthy Heroes Initiative decided to take action.
Partnering for Community Health
Through the Lions-Anthem Foundation Healthy Heroes initiative, Lion- and community-led humanitarian projects improve the health of communities across the United States. The Anthem Foundation provides grant support to Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), which in turn, awards grants to Lions clubs and districts with a goal to increase local health and wellness. In addition, the annual Lions-Anthem Volunteer Days take place across the United States each fall. Since 2015, the Lions-Anthem Volunteer Days have resulted in nearly 20,000 hours of community service, positively impacting more than 1.6 million people.
Through a US$100,000 grant provided by the initiative, seven retinal cameras were permanently placed at seven medical clinics across Ventura County. These cameras work by using low-energy infrared light to detect the blood vessels in one’s eye. The exam is painless, and the patient just needs to look forward as the physician looks for swelling, evidence of poor blood circulation, abnormal or new blood vessels, or scar tissue.
“Because of the generous donation from the Anthem Foundation and LCIF for the purchase of seven retinal scanners for our clinics, we were able to screen 145 more patients [in one year], resulting in 39 more cases detected,” said Amy Towner, chief executive officer of Health Care Foundation for Ventura County. “This equipment will provide a lasting impact for decades to come.”
A Hopeful Future
Already experiencing a 33 percent increase in screenings in just one year, there is hope for saving the precious vision of residents in Ventura County, where diabetes rates are high and continue to rise. In addition, retinal screenings may bring greater awareness of diabetes to the area, indicating possible risk for the disease in people who are undiagnosed. Knowing if one suffers from diabetes is more important than ever, as diabetes patients are at a much higher risk for life-threatening coronavirus (COVID-19) complications.
According to a study released by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, 46 percent of Californians have prediabetes or undiagnosed diabetes. That’s 13 million people at a high risk for developing the disease or who already have it unknowingly. Fortunately for patients in Ventura County, the new retinal cameras are safeguarding their vision and their health. The cameras also detect macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other conditions that affect vision.
“We are proud to help boost retinal screenings in Ventura County,” said Dr. David Pryor, regional vice president and medical director at Anthem Blue Cross. “These screenings can help catch problems early and even save lives.”
Thanks to the partnership between the Anthem Foundation and LCIF, the community of Ventura County has better access to retinal screening, and a better chance at catching diabetes before it causes irreversible harm.
To learn more about LCIF’s partnership with the Anthem Foundation, read the article in LION Magazine.
Jamie Weber is a marketing content specialist at Lions Clubs International Foundation.
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