Each year, I see October as a month of change – fall foliage appears, and families settle into school year routines. October also brings World Sight Day, a day of awareness which serves as a continual reminder to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment. But this year, October also signals a change for the Vision Impact Institute (VII) as we recently launched a new U.S. initiative, Kids See: Success.
Studies repeatedly emphasize the importance of diagnosing refractive errors at an early age – something many parents assume is being covered by their children’s school system. And while it’s true that schools may provide vision screenings for younger children, a study found that even if a child failed such an exam, 50 percent of parents were unaware of the failure two months after the screening. Furthermore, these screenings do not adequately test for prevalent vision disorders such as amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (crossed eyes) or significant refractive error. These disorders can, if left untreated, affect learning ability, personality and behavioral developments, and ultimately even lead to blindness. They have an economic impact, too – children’s vision disorders cost an estimated $10 billion annually in the United States alone.
The good news, though, is these issues can be addressed early on if children are given comprehensive eye examinations by eyecare professionals – and the sooner they’re identified, the better. A recent study from The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine evaluated the status of vision in the U.S. healthcare system and recommended that comprehensive eye exams are the “gold standard” in identifying potential vision disorders for children before they enter school – even though this is something only three states currently require of their school systems. I hope this fact shocks you as much as it did me!
That’s why I am so excited to highlight the Kids See: Success initiative and our partnership with Optometry Giving Sight and VSP Global. Through this program, we aim to educate parents, legislators, child advocacy groups, school nurses, teachers and administrators about the social, educational and future economic benefits of comprehensive eye exams for children prior to entering kindergarten.
So what can you do to ensure children in your communities have a clear line-of-sight to their future? Share with the school administrators, nurses, teachers and parents you know about the benefits of a comprehensive eye exam and early intervention for young children. If your local schools don’t require eye exams as an entry requirement for kindergartners, educate them about why they should. Help us spread the word this World Sight Day by encouraging your communities and colleagues to join in and continue Giving Vision a Voice.