Vision Loss May be Decreased by Focusing on Social Determinants of Health

Posted June 3, 2021

In our annual Blue Review readership survey, some readers asked for more articles on specialty areas. In response, we’ve created a series of articles on vision impairment. Do you have suggestions for other topics? Email us!

Did you know that identifying your patients' social determinants of health (SDOH) may help them avoid vision loss or impairment? The leading causes of vision loss and impairment include cataract, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), strabismus, amblyopia, and refractive errors.1 Access to timely eye care can often reduce or prevent the vision loss associated with these diseases, leading to improved vision.1

According to an article on the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, SDOH may be a guiding factor when it comes to identifying high-risk populations for certain types of vision loss and vision impairment. Studying pockets of SDOH may help target limited resources, tailor effective interventions, and promote policies that better achieve eye and vision health and improve population health equity.2

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):3

  • U.S. adults at high risk for vision loss increased from 65 million to 93 million between 2002 and 2017
  • 40% of adults at high risk for vision loss didn’t receive an eye exam in the past year
  • Over 8 million adults who said they need glasses can’t afford them

SDOH such as unhealthy living conditions, little access to healthy food and health care services, and transportation and employment limitations – which may prevent people from getting to the eye doctor annually – may all contribute to individuals being at higher risk for vision loss or impairment.

The promotion of, and access to, eye and vision health may positively influence many other social ailments, including poverty, increasing health care costs, and avoidable mortality and morbidity.2

How We Can Work Together
Blue Cross and Blue Shields of Illinois (BCBSIL) wants to work with you to help our members reach their full health potential by addressing the SDOH that may limit their quality of life. Help us identify members who may need additional resources by including ICD-10 Z codes for social determinants of health on claims.

Encourage your patients to check out the free, virtual programming at the Blue Door Neighborhood CenterSM (BDNCSM). Courses such as the six-week Diabetes Empowerment Education Program (DEEP), Hip Hop Wellness series, Stroke Prevention webinar, and Black Women & Obesity webinar are available to BCBSIL members and non-members.

In addition to vision benefits that vary by plan, BCBSIL, offers members discounts on laser eye surgery, eye exams, contacts and frames through Blue365®. No referral is necessary and there’s no limit to the number of times members can receive discounts on purchases.

BCBSIL is also working with Esperanza Health Centers and five other clinics in the Chicago area to help improve screening rates for diabetic retinopathy. The clinics offer free diabetic retinopathy screenings to BCBSIL members and non-members.

Provide community resources like Hadley to help members with vision loss so they have the skills necessary to work, live independently and continue some of the activities they’ve always enjoyed, such as gardening, traveling and going out to eat. Experts from the field of vision loss teach all Hadley on-demand workshops and are available to readily address personalized questions, whether received online, on the phone or in the mail. As a privately funded nonprofit, Hadley provides workshops completely free of charge. For more information about Hadley, visit their website, call 800-323-4238 or email them.


1U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Healthy People 2030 Vision Workgroup,

2NCBI, Making Eye Health a Population Health Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow, 2016.

3CDC, Four in 10 US Adults Are at High Risk for Vision Loss, May 12, 2020.

The above material is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician or other health care provider. Physicians and other health care providers are encouraged to use their own medical judgment based upon all available information and the condition of the patient in determining the appropriate course of treatment. The fact that a service or treatment is described in this material is not a guarantee that the service or treatment is a covered benefit and members should refer to their certificate of coverage for more details, including benefits, limitations and exclusions. Regardless of benefits, the final decision about any service or treatment is between the member and their health care provider.

Blue365 is a discount-only program for BCBSIL members. Discounts are only given through vendors that take part in this program. BCBSIL does not guarantee or make any claims or recommendations about the program’s services or products. Members are advised to consult their doctor before using these services and products. Some of the services offered through this program may be covered under some members’ health benefit plans. Members should check their benefit booklet or call the Customer Service number on their BCBSIL ID card for specific benefit facts.