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The Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos Announces New Ancillary Eye Study

Investigators from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL), recently announced SOL Ojos – a new 9.7 million dollar National Eye Institute (NEI)-funded ancillary project – that will assess the prevalence of chronic eye disease and its associations with risk factors across participants of diverse Hispanic/Latino backgrounds. 

Study lead investigators include David Lee, Ph.D., from the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences and Charlotte Joslin, O.D., Ph.D., from the University of Illinois at Chicago. University of Miami co-investigator Byron Lam, M.D., with the assistance of Carlos Mendoza, M.D., will oversee the completion of 1,500 eye examinations undertaken by highly trained bilingual examiners in dedicated clinical space donated by the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. Dr. Lam and Dr. Lee have collaborated on studies funded by the NEI and the National Institute on Aging since 1995 and Dr. Lee has been an HCHS/SOL investigator since study planning began in 2008.       

The HCHS/SOL study, which began in 2008 is a comprehensive, longitudinal, and multicenter community-based cohort study on Hispanic/Latino populations in the United States. The study has identified risk factors that may have a protective or harmful role in the development of cardiovascular disease in Hispanics/Latinos, as well as evaluated the role of acculturation in the prevalence and development of risk factors and disease. Findings so far have helped in determining the cause of health problems within this population, as well as identifying health protective factors.

From 2008 to 2011, there were 16,415 participants who were recruited from a random sample of households in four communities located in the Bronx, Chicago, Miami, and San Diego. They underwent clinic examinations to determine baseline cardiovascular prevalence and to identify potential risk and protective factors. Participants were from Mexican, Cuban, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Central and South American origins, to name a few. Over 80 percent of these participants were re-examined between 2014-2017. At this examination, participants were asked if they were blind or had serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses. Over 10 percent of participants reported serious visual loss—a rate of disability more than three-fold higher than reported by the general U.S. population.    

“We know that Hispanic/Latinos develop certain eye conditions at higher rates than other ethnic groups, but we don’t know why,” said Dr. Joslin, UIC associate professor of ophthalmology at the College of Medicine and of epidemiology and biostatistics at the School of Public Health. “By understanding the health history and following the health of Hispanics/Latinos with eye disease, we may be able to identify patterns or causes of disease that can be prevented or slowed with treatment."

“We want to understand eye disease among Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Cubans and the many different types of people that are considered Hispanic/Latino,” Dr. Joslin added. “This is particularly relevant because the burden of eye disease is increasing as the average age of the population increases, and this will make Hispanic/Latinos especially vulnerable to eye disease, which in severe cases can be debilitating.”

From the Chicago and Miami field centers, researchers will recruit and perform a detailed eye exam on 3,000 HCHS/SOL participants who are 40 years of age or greater. The exams will include the National Eye Institute Visual Functioning Questionnaire and standardized protocols with disease definitions identical to previous NEI-funded cohorts, such as the Los Angeles Latino Eye Study, the Chinese American Eye Study, and the African American Eye Study.

The Eye Study aims to fulfill two goals. One is to quantify age-standardized prevalence rates and assess differences across Hispanic/Latino groups for chronic eye diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy, open angle glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, cataract, and visual impairment. The second aim is to examine the association of cardiovascular disease and other risk and protective factors with the prevalence of these eye conditions. Genetic information available on participants will also be used to identify factors that may account for increased and decreased risk of having these various eye conditions.

"HCHS/SOL is the largest longitudinal epidemiologic study of Latinos ever fielded and the inclusion of a comprehensive eye examination will yield important insights into how best to preserve eye health in this rapidly growing and diverse segment of the U.S. population," said Dr. Lee. 

Written by Amanda Torres
Published on December 10, 2019