IRC Coordinates Collaborative Effort to Promote Visual Health
On July 28, 2012, the IRC in Baltimore, working with several community based organizations and student groups at the Hopkins School of Medicine, held a free clinic for vision health within the Frankford Community in east Baltimore. The IRC health team, volunteer medical students, and a local opthamologist provided free vision screenings to ninety-nine people from the local community, many of whom were uninsured or underinsured. The IRC health team is now coordinating free follow-up care at the Hopkins Wilmer Eye Clinic for thirty participants who identified vision health needs at the event.
This outreach was successful due to the effective partnership between several groups in the Baltimore area: Hopkins Education Across Languages (HEAL), Hopkins “Sight Savers,” the Episcopal Refugee and Immigrant Center Alliance (ERICA), the IRC Health Team, the IRC Community Interpreters program, and the Goodnow Community Center.
Ten volunteers from the aforementioned organizations as well as nine community interpreters collaborated to plan and conduct the event. Volunteers helped with food and logistics during the event. Medical students from Hopkins set up five separate stations to check five aspects of vision health, with an interpreter at each station.
The project was coordinated by IRC Health Advocate Karine Nankam and Will Herbert, a summer intern with the Health team. For two months leading up to the event, Health Promotion intern Will Herbert worked with case managers, ESL instructors, and community leaders, to contact families and discuss their vision health. During the course of his home visits and case management work, Will helped families plan to attend this event.
Karine Nankam and the IRC health team facilitated communication between the partnering organizations, developed materials to support the activities, and coordinated the follow-up appointments for each client screened at the event.
The IRC health team pre-registered 60 people for this event, but due to the high number of walk-ins on the day of the event, the clinical staff and volunteers agreed to stay additional hours, in order to provide screenings for a total of 95 people. Volunteers at the event collected contact information for the additional walk-ins who could not be seen, to invite them to a workshop being planned for later this year.
The clinical staff at the event noted that the percentage of participants needing follow-up visits was greater than the average identified in other settings, indicating that these screenings will proactively address a high number of vision health issues.
Karine and the IRC health team will be working closely with the Wilmer Eye Institute to ensure that all clients attend their follow-up appointments. Many will receive free eye-glasses. Those who were diagnosed with glaucoma may receive free surgery at Wilmer. The health team is also assisting clients who could not be seen at the event, to apply for health insurance and schedule eye exams.
Ms. Nankam noted that this event raised awareness within the community on the importance of preventive eye exams. In addition, the medical students who operated the screening stations gained experience working with the refugee and asylee community.
Nankam stated “this event emphasized the great need for appropriate eye care within our clients' community.” Noting the large turnout at the event, Karine added, “this was an invaluable opportunity to get otherwise inaccessible specialty vision care.”
Gloria Jenkins, Director of the Goodnow Community Center stated she was “happy to see a diverse group of community members at this event.” Barbara Jackson, President of the Frankford Improvement Association, was also present at the event, and stated that she was pleased to see so many members of the community receiving care.