News Releases

August 20, 2003

MCG Health System partners with Emory and Georgia in pilot eye screening procedure project

Augusta, Ga. -- MCG Health System, along with Emory Eye Center and the Georgia Department of Human Resources (DHR), are sponsoring a pilot project that they hope will lead to statewide eye screenings for diabetics.

Diabetes is a blood sugar disorder that can lead to serious complications, including blindness. It is estimated that more than 14 million diabetics across the country are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, a blinding disorder characterized by damage to blood vessels of the retina. In Georgia alone, there are nearly 140,000 estimated cases of diabetic retinopathy among those ages 18 and older.

Early detection and treatment are vital in helping to decrease loss of vision. Pamela Losgar, RN, Clinical Manager of Network Services at MCG Health System and Project Manager for the screening initiative, said, "Nearly all of those who have lived with Type 1 diabetes for more than 20 years exhibit some degree of diabetic retinopathy and up to 21 percent of those with Type 2 diabetes have retinopathy when they are first diagnosed. Most diabetics will develop some degree of retinopathy. But research suggests that the risk can be reduced through careful control of blood sugar, blood pressure control, patient education, health care team education and early detection through affordable screening and treatment."

"This is potentially a very important project," said Maria Aaron, MD, the program's medical director at Emory Eye Center. "Its beauty is two-fold: We can save the precious sight of thousands of Georgians if they are screened early, and we can also save the state money in terms of what they would have to cover in the future eye treatment of diabetics. I look forward to seeing this project grow and sustain itself."

Through a $100,000 grant from the DHR's Division of Public Health, Diabetes Control Program, and matching funds from MCG Health System and Emory, the pilot program will offer eye screenings at public health departments in two health districts, covering Dade, Chatooga, Walker, Catoosa, Gordon, Floyd, Bartow, Polk, Paulding, Haralson, Wilkes, Lincoln, Taliaferro, Warren, McDuffie, Columbia, Glascock, Richmond, Jefferson, Burke, Emmanuel, Jenkins and Screven counties. The Lions Club of Georgia is also offering marketing and manpower support within the two districts. If successful, the project could expand statewide.

"The goal will be to expand the pilot to a statewide initiative through telehealth capabilities. We have applied for a Health Resources and Services Administration telehealth grant," Losgar said. "This $250,000 a year, three-year grant will allow us to transmit images electronically, provide patient/provider education, create diabetes surveillance systems and link to other diabetes databases in the state."

Losgar is also seeking a $200,000 Core 4 grant from Lions Club International to help expand the project to other health districts in the state. "Eventually, we would hope to make this self-sustaining, through reimbursement and legislation," she said.

Monthly screenings begin in Jefferson and Polk counties on August 18 and will expand to other counties in both health districts over the course of a year.

MCG Health System is composed of MCG Health, Inc. and the clinical services offered by the faculty of the Medical College of Georgia and the members of the Physicians Practice Group. MCG Health, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation operating the MCG Hospitals and Clinics, Children's Medical Center, the Georgia Radiation Therapy Center and related clinical facilities and services. MCG Health, Inc. was formed to support the research and education mission of the Medical College of Georgia and to build the economic growth of the CSRA, the state of Georgia and the Southeast by offering the highest level of primary and specialty health care. For more information, please visit www.mcghealth.org.

The Emory Eye Center includes the Department of Ophthalmology, part of the Emory School of Medicine, its clinical sector and all aspects of research. Ranked in the top 15 of the U.S. News & World Report's annual survey of the nation's best eye centers, Emory Eye Center remains in the top ten of the peer-evaluated Ophthalmology Times survey. The nation's first corneal transplant was performed in Georgia in 1947 at Emory; its refractive surgery trials were conducted in the 1980s, and it remains at the forefront of many national clinical trials, including those on macular degeneration and glaucoma. For more information, visit the website:
http://eyecenter.emory.edu

The mission of the Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Public Health is to promote and protect the health of all Georgians. For more information about the Division of Public Health, visit www.health.state.ga.us.

Media Contact: Joy H. Bell
jbell@emory.edu
404-778-3711

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