AHN, Highmark Wholecare, Brother’s Brother Foundation and Project Theia Partner to Improve Vision Health in Underserved Communities

Updated on October 8, 2022

For socially vulnerable populations in Western Pennsylvania with unmet eye care needs, Allegheny Health Network (AHN), Highmark Wholecare, Brother’s Brother Foundation and Project Theia are teaming up to meet those needs via a new mobile optometry health clinic that will be traveling to communities throughout the region. The collaborating organizations will host today their first mobile clinic in the parking lot of the AHN Braddock Urgent Care Center (501 Braddock Avenue) from 8:00am-4:00pm. Media is invited to attend 11:00am-1:30pm. 

AHN patients and Highmark Wholecare members who pre-scheduled to participate in the clinic will undergo free vision screenings and diabetic retinal eye exams conducted by Project Theia ophthalmologists. Following each exam, the onsite care team will work to identify patients’ additional health needs and connect them with local health resources. 

Pittsburgh-based non-profit Brother’s Brother Foundation (BBF) has supplied the specially equipped vision and diabetic retinal screening mobile health van from which the clinic will operate. BBF partners with Mission Vision who will also provide prescription glasses as needed.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 2.2 billion people globally have a near or distance vision impairment. In almost half of these cases, vision impairment could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed. The prevalence of distance vision impairment in low- and middle-income regions is estimated to be four times higher than in high-income regions. Vision impairment severely impacts quality of life among adult populations. Adults with vision impairment often have lower rates of workforce participation and productivity, and higher rates of depression and anxiety. 

In addition to detecting vision problems and diseases, regular eye exams can help to uncover other health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and more. 

Named after the Greek goddess of sight and heavenly light, Project Theia was founded by oculoplastic surgeons Katherine Duncan, MD, and Jenny Yu, MD, FACS, who share a passion to improve the lives of patients with vision loss and facial deformities. Dr. Yu says that even in the U.S., accessible optometry remains a pressing unmet need. 

“Project Theia is so pleased to partner with these extraordinary organizations which impact communities across Western Pennsylvania every day beyond measure. We look forward to meeting with individuals in the Braddock area to provide vision screenings, and then working with our partners to ensure care continuity for patients’ overall improved health and wellbeing,” said Dr. Yu.   

Founded in 1958, BBF helps bridge the gap between aid and sustainability by supporting localized programs and providing essential resources in the areas of health care, infrastructure, disaster response and education. Recently, in March, Brother’s Brother, Highmark Health, AHN and Pittsburgh Technology Council partnered to donate medicine, medical equipment and other supplies to the relief efforts in Ukraine.

“Since the inception of Brother’s Brother Foundation, we have worked tirelessly to serve people in all corners of the world who are in need, but none more important than those in our backyard who lack access to basic health services. We are grateful for this opportunity to help make a difference for the most vulnerable among us,” said Ozzy Samad, president, BBF.

Today’s screening event will be the first of many to be held in areas across the Greater Pittsburgh region marked by social vulnerability. Additional details regarding the next event targeting the New Kensington community will soon be announced. 

“At Highmark Wholecare, we believe that caring for the whole person means thinking outside the box when it comes to how and where care is provided,” said Rebekah Hughey, MD, medical director, Highmark Wholecare and member of the Brother’s Brother Foundation board of trustees. “Highmark Wholecare is excited to participate in this unique effort which seeks not only to deliver essential eye care but, for many members of our communities, it will serve as a much-needed starting point on a journey toward improved health and wellness.”


About Allegheny Health Network 

Allegheny Health Network (AHN.org) is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving the greater Western Pennsylvania region. The Network is composed of 14 hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, Health + Wellness Pavilions, an employed physician organization, home and community-based health services, a research institute and a group purchasing organization. The Network provides patients with access to a complete spectrum of advanced medical services, including nationally recognized programs for primary and emergency care, cardiovascular disease, cancer care, orthopedic surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, women’s health, diabetes and more. AHN employs approximately 21,000 people, has more than 2,600 physicians on its medical staff and serves as a clinical campus for Drexel University College of Medicine and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.

About Highmark Wholecare

We believe in caring for the whole person in all communities where the need is greatest. We see a future in which everyone has equal opportunity to achieve their best health. Through our leading Medicaid and Medicare programs, we are coordinating healthcare that goes beyond doctors and medicine that helps members achieve not just physical health, but also delivers whole person care. Our associates are helping to drive this new kind of healthcare in collaboration with a network of 29,000 primary care physicians, specialists, hospitals, and other ancillary providers. We are also committed to supporting our neighbors through our many community outreach and engagement programs. Learn more at www.highmarkwholecare.com

About Brother’s Brother 

Brother’s Brother Foundation (https://brothersbrother.org/) helps bridge the gap between aid and sustainability by supporting localized programs and providing essential resources in the areas of Healthcare, Infrastructure, Disaster Response, and Education (H.I.D.E). All programs are designed to fulfill the Foundation’s mission by providing aid and developing sustainable projects. Brother’s Brother Foundation began in 1958 as a dream of a few to help many abroad who lack good healthcare, education, and nutrition. From the beginning, its founder, Robert A. Hingson M.D., urged that BBF’s resources be shared with local counterpart organizations in developing countries that shared the common desire to help those in need. Today, these efforts include regularly scheduled relief shipments and programmatic work under the H.I.D.E. umbrella here at home and abroad. Check out our programs to learn more.

About Project Theia

Project Theia (https://www.projecttheia.org/) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization named after the Greek goddess of sight and light. We are focused on delivering specialized surgical care, education, and solutions in global communities of need. The idea of Project Theia stemmed from the founders’ passion to improve the lives of patients with vision loss and facial deformities. This organization assists in expanding the specialized services in global communities.

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