MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University Eye Institute’s Appalachian Vision Outreach Program (AVOP) is getting a financial boost from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation in the form of $115,000 grant to continue bringing vision healthcare services to West Virginians. This is the Benedum Foundation’s third year of providing support to the AVOP.

“We couldn’t accomplish what we have over the past years without the support of the Benedum Foundation and the partnerships we have established with the WVU Lions Sight Conservation Foundation, local Lions Clubs throughout the state, members of the West Virginia Association of Free Clinics and community clinics. The AVOP continues to be a catalyst for life-changing vision care for underserved and underinsured West Virginians,” Ronald L. Gross, M.D., director of the WVU Eye Institute and chair of the WVU Department of Ophthalmology, said.

Through the grant, vision screening, general clinics, sub-specialty clinical services and education on the importance of vision health will be made available for those who have no access to regular eye care and are unable to travel to the Eye Institute because of a lack of transportation or other barriers.

“Eyes are the doorway where signs of certain health problems beyond eye disorders are visible in or around the eyes,” Dr. Gross said. “Through thorough eye exams, health problems like diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease can be detected long before symptoms appear.”

The Benedum Foundation’s mission is to encourage human development in West Virginia and Southwestern Pennsylvania through strategically placed charitable resources. It encourages collaboration among the public, private and nonprofit sectors in order to leverage the resources that each can bring to common concerns.

“The Benedum Foundation strives daily to improve the health of the citizens of West Virginia. Too often, people postpone addressing components of their overall health, such as vision, due to lack of insurance or the affordability of care. The AVOP is filling a huge gap in vision care by helping people improve their quality of life, as well as improve personal safety factors, such as ability to drive and to avoid falls. We are proud to be part of this program as it reaches out to serve people across the state who deserve quality eye care,” Kim Barber Tieman, program officer of the Benedum Foundation, said.

West Virginia has some of the highest rates of obesity, diabetes, smoking, poor diet, cardiovascular disease and lack of exercise. These conditions contribute to and increase the prevalence of the three leading causes of blindness, including age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma, Gross said. For those with visual impairments, or “low vision,” there are resources available to help make the best use of the remaining vision to enable independent lifestyles.

The gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the private non-profit corporation that generates and provides support for West Virginia University. The Foundation is currently conducting A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University – a $750 million private fundraising effort on behalf of WVU.
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For more information: Angela Jones-Knopf, News Service Coordinator, 304-293-7087
st: 07-12-13