Program Increases Number of Annual Eye Exams Among Oklahoma American Indian Tribe
Since the beginning of a program designed to raise awareness of eye disease among people with diabetes, the proportion of Chickasaw Nation tribal members who seek annual eye examinations has increased from 40% to 70%, the Oklahoman reports.
Diabetes is more common among American Indians and Alaska Natives than any other ethnic group in the U.S., according to the American Diabetes Association. The disease can damage the blood vessels, which increases the risk of going blind by 25%, the Oklahoman reports.
About a decade ago, Stephen Fransen, an ophthalmologist and retina specialist at the Dean A. McGee Eye Institute, and John Garber, an optometrist at Chickasaw Nation's Carl Albert Indian Health Facility, began providing monthly retinal exams and laser treatments at the Carl Albert clinic. Since then, the program expanded to three other clinics and two additional tribes.
Fransen said, "I think the primary benefit is keeping people from going blind," adding, "We're basically stopping the problems before they get to that advanced stage."
"We implemented this system as part of our proactive approach to diabetes treatment, and it has proven to be a very effective way to prevent one of the most devastating complications of diabetes," Bill Anoatubby, governor of the Chickasaw Nation, said in a statement. "It is gratifying to know that our successful partnership with Dean McGee Eye Institute has influenced other tribes to adopt this system," he added (Gollob, Oklahoman, 7/16).