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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University November 29, 2004 | Vol. 34 No. 13
Joint Project to Help Hispanics Manage Diabetes-related Eye Disease

By Kim Martin
School of Public Health

In an effort to address one of the many health risks associated with a high rate of diabetes among Baltimore's growing Hispanic community, Johns Hopkins' Wilmer Eye Institute, Catholic Charities' Hispanic Apostolate and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Communication Programs have joined forces to help Hispanics better understand how diabetes affects their eyes and can damage their vision if left untreated.

The National Eye Institute awarded the three organizations — known collectively as the Pro Vision Project — $2.5 million over four years to tackle this problem affecting the largest growing minority group in the United States, where the Latino population is expected to double by 2025.

According to studies, one in five adult Latinos (age 40 and older) have diabetes, and nearly half of those (47 percent) have diabetic retinopathy, a diabetic eye disease that can result in vision loss. Yet 15 percent of those with diabetes are unaware of their condition, and 9 percent of those have moderate to severe diabetic retinopathy as well. Timely and appropriate treatment can be effective in preventing loss of vision.

"We recognize that there are many factors, including economic factors, that prevent Latinos from seeking treatment for their diabetes and associated eye problems," said Wilmer's Sheila West, principal investigator for Pro Vision and a professor in the School of Medicine. "That's why we plan to work with the Latino community to learn how they receive health information and the factors that influence them in seeking eye care and then design a health information program and supportive system to meet their needs."

The Hispanic Apostolate will facilitate the outreach to identify and educate diabetic people within the Latino community, while the Wilmer Eye Institute will use its world-renowned eye health expertise along with CCP's behavior change communication strategies to develop and disseminate health education messages and materials on diabetes and diabetic retinopathy to Baltimore's Latino community.

Pro Vision will begin by conducting research to determine gaps in knowledge and perceived barriers to appropriate eye care for diabetic eye disease, and then will use an interactive process with the community to design health education messages, materials and dissemination systems. The project also plans to use community-based channels of communication to disseminate the health education messages that aim to increase knowledge, help remove barriers to access and enhance health-seeking behaviors.

Ultimately, Pro Vision will evaluate its efforts and develop a model for reaching Latino populations with health messages that can be packaged for replication in other areas with growing Latino populations.


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