For over 30 years, Seva Foundation's Native
American program has addressed a broad
range of community issues from cultural
preservation to educational and economic
development, conservation, and health and
wellness. This year, we are proud to announce
the launch of a new focus, the American Indian
Sight Initiative (AISI), a U.S. based program
focused on addressing vision needs among
This initiative stems from Seva's efforts to
streamline our mission and tap into our global
expertise in providing vision care, while still
honoring our commitment to serving American
Indians. There are many parallels between the
eye health needs of Native Americans and
the underserved communities we support
around the world. Despite the existence of U.S.
government supported tribal health programs,
unmet eye health needs among our Native
population are significant:
- Only a minority of tribal health programs
have an eye care provider on-site.
- Tribal health programs that provide vision
services do not have adequate funding,
staffi ng, or equipment.
- Due to their limited resources, most
programs cannot conduct outreach activities,
so providers must wait for patients to come
into the clinic.
- Language and other cultural barriers prevent
American Indians from seeking eye care.
Few eye care providers are American Indian.
- Many American Indians cannot access
existing eye care services due to limited
incomes and transportation as well as long
- Unless American Indians have insurance
coverage, they must pay out of pocket for
eyeglasses, which are still out of reach for
many on a limited income.
American Indians are at greatest risk for
diabetic eye disease, such as diabetic
retinopathy, due to having the highest rates
of diabetes among all racial/ethnic groups in
the U.S. However, only half of American Indian
diabetics get a recommended annual eye exam.
Seva Foundation's current focus is on
expanding eye care services to Native
populations living in California and New
Mexico. We are exploring providing support
for American Indian vision technician training,
making glasses more affordable, and
telemedicine opportunities in the provision
of prescription eyeglasses and diabetic
School Screening Program in New Mexico
Seva Foundation and Helen Keller
International's ChildSight® program are
partners in a school screening initiative in
the Gallup, New Mexico, area that provides
students with professional vision screenings
and, if needed, a pair of prescription
eyeglasses, all at no cost to their families.
Native American children tend to have
a higher rate of astigmatism, one of the
three types of refractive errors, the others
being nearsightedness and farsightedness.
Astigmatism is caused by an irregular shape of
the cornea or lens. In the 2012-2013 academic
year, 5,209 students were screened and 1,501
(29%) were provided with a pair of prescription
eyeglasses. In addition, 221 (4%) were referred
for follow-up care. Compounding this high
prevalence is the critical level of rural poverty
within the Navajo Reservation. These vision
screenings are a bright spot in a community
where vision care is neither affordable nor
accessible to the vast majority of families.
By providing children a free pair of eyeglasses,
we're not only providing them with ability to
see clearly we're also giving them back their
potential to learn, to earn a living, and to
engage with the world.
To learn more visit our American Indian Sight Initiative page.