Perceived barriers to care and attitudes about vision and eye care: Focus groups with older African Americans and eye care providers

Academic Article


  • PURPOSE. To identify by using focus group methods the perceived barriers to eye care and attitudes about vision and eye care among older African Americans as well as among ophthalmologists and optometrists serving their communities. METHODS. Seventeen focus groups of older African Americans residing in the Birmingham or Montgomery, Alabama, areas were led by an experienced facilitator. Discussion was stimulated by a semistructured script focused on their perceived barriers to eye care and attitudes about vision and eye care. Six focus groups of ophthalmologists and optometrists who practiced in this geographic region addressed the same topics. Discussion was audiotaped and transcribed. Comments were coded using a multistep content analysis protocol. RESULTS. One hundred nineteen African Americans (age range, 59-97 years) and 35 eye care providers (51% ophthalmologists, 49% optometrists) participated. The barrier-to-care problem most frequently cited by both African Americans and eye care providers was transportation. The next most common problems mentioned by African Americans were trusting the doctor, communicating with the doctor, and the cost of eye care; and for eye care providers, the next most common problems were cost, trust, and insurance. With respect to older African Americans' comments on their attitudes about vision and eye care, these comments were predominantly positive (69%), highlighting the importance of eye care and behavior in their lives and attitudes that facilitated care. However, when eye care providers relayed their impressions of African Americans' attitudes about vision and eye care, their comments were largely negative (74%) centering on concerns and frustrations that older African Americans did not have attitudes or engage in behavior that facilitate eye care. CONCLUSIONS. These results provide some guidance for the design of interventions to increase the use of routine eye care in this population. At a societal level, there is a need for affordable and accessible transportation services for older African Americans seeking eye care. For ophthalmologists, optometrists, and their staffs, there is a need for continuing education that imparts culturally sensitive and age-appropriate communication and trust-building skills for interactions with this population. In addition to reinforcing the generally positive attitudes of older African Americans toward the importance of eye care, community-based educational programs should be focused on strategies for overcoming the common barriers to care. Copyright © Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Owsley C; McGwin G; Scilley K; Girkin CA; Phillips JM; Searcey K
  • Start Page

  • 2797
  • End Page

  • 2802
  • Volume

  • 47
  • Issue

  • 7