Last week I had a chance to attend the Reservation Economic Summit, a trade show put on by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. While the central theme of the show was to promote business activity and Native American owned companies, there were also a number of presentations aimed at health and wellness. It’s pretty clear that health issues have a direct and substantial economic impact and this is especially true in Native American communities where the statistics are quite alarming.

Early detection is one of the keys to turning this around. I spoke with a number of companies that are serving the health needs of this community, but one in particular caught my attention. They are doing screenings to detect early stages of diabetes through a simple, non-invasive eye exam.

If you’re like me, you hate going to the doctor in the first place, and getting blood work done makes it even worse. DIsease detection via eye exams is based on recent advancements in digital imaging and promises to dramatically improve access to accurate and timely diagnostic testing. It involves a quick and simple exam where high-resolution photos of the retina are used to reveal markers that indicate early stages of diabetes (and other diseases). No needles, no long appointments, instant results.

According to one company, they can predict onset of diabetes over a year in advance – enough time to make some lifestyle changes and hopefully reverse course.

Time will tell if this testing becomes mainstream, but it sure looks promising.