Blindness is a top health fear across ethnic groups and populations worldwide. Severe vision loss in middle
and old age constitutes a personal crisis for individuals, with important social and economic costs to society.
Hispanics are disproportionally affected by 3 leading noncommunicable disease (NCD) causes of blindness –
glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts – but development and implementation of interventions that can
facilitate identification, follow-up and treatment of individuals at high risk of blindness to reduce blindness and
moderate-to-severe visual impairment (MSVI) in such populations remains preliminary and inadequate.
Screening of individuals at high risk but without functional visual loss and early case-detection can significantly
improve prevention of blindness and MSVI, when coupled with appropriate treatment and support. Besides
cost of equipment, implementation of such interventions in LAC is limited by 1) cultural beliefs toward blindness
and visual impairment in middle and older ages, and gaps in our understanding thereof; and 2) lack of readily
available standardized, culturally sensitive protocols that are practical and adaptable to use in diverse settings
of LAC, targeting populations at high risk, such as those residing in regions of poor health care access and
high NCD rates.
The purpose of this exploratory-developmental project is to begin to overcome these barriers by developing
and pilot-testing the Hispanic Eye (HEY) study, a community-based intervention that focuses on improving
access to eye health care in Venezuela (VZ), where our established research and capacity-building
infrastructure will allow us to accomplish the following specific aims: Aim 1. To assess social, behavioral,
cultural and structural factors that impact screening and early case detection of leading causes of blindness, as
well as adherence to follow-up recommendations to inform development and initiation of a plan to promote the
design and implementation of a community-based program to improve efforts to prevent, detect early and
provide appropriate treatments in VZ. Aim 2. To test feasibility, acceptability and efficacy of the Hispanic Eye
(HEY) study in VZ we will develop, implement and assess a pilot study with 350 high-risk residents of Santa
Lucía and Santa Rosa communities in Maracaibo VZ. To achieve these aims, our team encompasses expert
scientists extensively experienced in population science, ophthalmology, analytical epidemiology,
implementation science, and VZ populations. The results will generate preliminary data needed to justify a full
R01 collaborative study, and identify specific research questions show the greatest promise to advance
prevention of visual loss in Hispanics, and provide critical new knowledge to facilitate widespread
implementation, dissemination and sustained application of evidence-based eye care strategies in LAC and in
high-risk U.S. populations.