The role of community health centers in responding to disparities in visual health

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date





Volume 79, Issue 10

Inclusive Pages



Community Health Centers; Health Services Accessibility; Minority Groups; Optometry; Poverty; Vision Disorders--therapy; Vision Care; Community Health Centers; Health Reform; Health Homes; GG/RCHN



Community health centers (CHCs) are nonprofit community-based providers of primary and preventive health care for medically underserved populations. At the same time, nationally, racial/ethnic minorities and low-income populations are disproportionately affected by poor access to comprehensive eye and vision care and are more likely to experience adverse outcomes.


This report describes the fundamentals of CHCs, including mission, their patients, the types of health care and enabling services that they provide, the quality and cost-effectiveness of their care, and how they are funded. This report also reviews the demographics of vision disparities among at-risk populations, the economic impact of undiagnosed and untreated vision problems, and the similarities between those at risk for vision problems and the patients targeted by CHCs.


Aimed at responding to disparities in access to health care services and health status outcomes, CHCs are optimally positioned to contribute to improved access to comprehensive eye and vision care as well as to the reduction of disparities in visual health status. There is need for extensive research in further defining and addressing disparities in access to optometric care in medically underserved populations and the potential role that CHCs can play in meeting those needs.


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Open Access