January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month
January 11, Wilkes-Barre, PA- The Blue Ribbon Foundation of Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania recently awarded three grants to programs that help make life easier for the visually impaired, or help detect potentially harmful eye conditions before vision is lost. The grants, totaling nearly $30,000 for three regional nonprofits, fund much-needed services as America marks national “Glaucoma Awareness Month” in January.
Over the past five years, the Greater Wilkes-Barre Association for the Blind has seen a doubling in the number of newly blind individuals seeking help. In December, The Blue Ribbon Foundation provided the agency with a $10,000 grant to expand home-based evaluations and case management services for 135 newly blind individuals in Luzerne, Pike, Wayne and Wyoming Counties in the coming year.
Also in December, the Foundation awarded $7,500 to Visual Impairment and Blindness Services (VIABL) of Monroe County to provide free eye exams to uninsured individuals. VIABL will add 400 hours of staff time at its Eye Care Clinic in Stroudsburg to expand services for this population.
Finally, back in March, the Pocono Healthy Communities Alliance (PHCA) received $9,300 to conduct vision, developmental and other health screenings for 400 low-income children, ages 3 to 5, in Monroe County. PHCA’s tests also can identify learning disabilities, and the organization provides referrals and case management services.
Glaucoma, a group of eye diseases that causes vision loss by damaging the optic nerve, is the number one cause of preventable blindness among Americans. More than 4 million U.S. residents have the condition, according to Glaucoma Research Foundation. In the Commonwealth, more than 400,000 residents, or 3.22 percent, are blind or visually impaired, according to the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind.
Those figures are only expected to grow as America goes gray. Research indicates aging Baby Boomers will double the number of blind and visually impaired Americans in the next 30 years, according to the National Federation of the Blind. Currently, 10 million Americans are blind or visually impaired, and an estimated 75,000 individuals join their ranks annually, according to the federation.
The Blue Ribbon Foundation does its part to fulfill the region’s health needs by carefully targeting funding to help local residents, many of whom live within federally designated “Health Professional Shortage Areas.” In calendar year 2009, The Blue Ribbon Foundation awarded 42 grants, which will fund health-related services for more than 35,000 individuals across northeastern and north central Pennsylvania.
Find out More
The Blue Ribbon Foundation operates its funding cycles on a quarterly basis. For more information on funding priorities, application deadlines and eligibility criteria, please visit www.bcnepa.com, and click on “The Blue Ribbon Foundation” tab.
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About Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania
Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association headquartered in Wilkes-Barre. It offers a comprehensive portfolio of health insurance products and administrative services to approximately 600,000 individuals in 13 counties in northeastern and north central Pennsylvania. The company’s mission is to provide innovative solutions that support more affordable health care, promote personal accountability for health and wellness, and offer superior service and partnership to employers, members, and providers.