Clinical Care and Practice Advancement
Community Health Centers
Community Health Centers (CHCs) are multidisciplinary, community-governed health care facilities designed to deliver comprehensive health services, address health disparities and improve access to care for underserved populations. Eye and vision services are greatly underrepresented at CHCs with only 18% of centers providing in-house optometric services. AOA has partnered with the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) to improve access to eye and vision care services at CHCs. Optometry has a unique opportunity to build an entirely new career path for optometrists interested in public health by advocating for and providing eye and vision care services at CHCs.
The AOA Community Health Center Committee is supporting the development of programs and policies associated with optometry at CHCs. The AOA Community Health Center Committee is working to
- Create a new career path for optometrists interested in working at community health centers by developing a model recruitment and compensation package that can be utilized by CHCs.
A New England College of Optometry student uses a biomicroscope to performan external eye examination on a patient at the Dorchester House Multi-Service Center.
- Assure that optometry is included in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) scholarship and loan repayment program.
- Assure that optometry becomes eligible for Graduate Medical Education funding.
- Assist State Optometric Associations and State Primary Care Associations to assure that optometry is included in state loan repayment programs.
- Initiate and communicate the outcomes of a collaborative professional needs assessment for eye and vision services at CHCs.
- Continue to report on progress made with the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC).
- Continue to work with NACHC and other advocates to develop funding opportunities and business plans for health centers interested in adding on-site eye and vision care services.
- Work with the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry to develop affiliation agreements and clinical rotations at CHCs for students and residents.
- Develop presentations for use at national and state meetings on the need for eye and vision care services, and how to start an eye care service at CHCs.
Learn more about Community Health Centers at www.nachc.com. To find a Community Health Center near you log on to www.bphc.hrsa.gov.