New Jersey: Protecting the Eye Health of People Living with Diabetes
The New Jersey Department of Health works with the Diabetic Eye Disease Detection Program (DEDD) to make it easier for residents living with diabetes to get an eye exam, even if they don’t have insurance or an eye doctor. The DEDD program brings eye care specialists and screenings for people with diabetes to targeted communities. A portion of Preventive Health and Health Services (PHHS) Block Grant funds helped pay for DEDD staff salaries, travel costs, and supplies to support the management and delivery of this program.
Diabetes is a disease where a person has high blood sugar. It was New Jersey’s sixth-leading cause of death in 2011. Diabetes can cause blindness and other eye diseases if left untreated. A doctor can find out if someone living with diabetes has an eye disease by doing an eye exam every year. In New Jersey, more than 25% of residents with diabetes do not get their eyes checked annually.
Teaching people about eye health and diabetes is an important part of the DEDD program. Every year, DEDD program staff give out about 7,000 flyers with information about diabetes, the importance of regular eye examinations, and how to get help managing diabetes. Some flyers have information about how diabetes can be bad for feet, teeth, kidneys, and blood pressure. Every person who gets an eye exam at a DEDD clinic talks to a nurse and a doctor about diabetes and how to stay healthier while living with the disease.
In 2014, DEDD provided services to 1,050 people with diabetes living on low incomes. Of these, 64% had no health insurance, 85% were from minority populations, and 80% were not covered by Medicare. Four hundred and sixty (44%) of the people screened were found to have serious eye diseases. DEDD put all 460 of the people with eye disease in contact with community health organizations that could help them get treatment.
The DEDD program plans to continue offering free eye exams to lower the number of people in New Jersey suffering from diabetic eye diseases.
Story year: 2015