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The Need

2008-03-10 at 12-14-27 MF IMG_8305According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vision impairment is one of the most prevalent disabling conditions among children in the US[1] and yet, 35% of children have never seen an eye care professional.[2] Research indicates that 25% of school age children have vision impairment.[3] Nearsightedness, or myopia, is the most common refractive error of the eye, and it has become widespread in recent years.  Children are becoming myopic earlier in life and faced with a much more rapid decline of vision.  With early detection it is estimated that upwards of 80% of all vision impairment can be prevented or cured.[4]  However, detection is often limited by basic access to services, as research from the Campaign for Educational Equity reports that low income youth are at a greater risk of unrecognized and untreated vision problems and have a higher rate of unmet needs for vision care services.[5]

While many US school districts provide vision screenings for children every other year in grades K-10, schools struggle to fulfill this mandate, and even when they do, many children do not receive the follow-up care they need.  The National Commission on Vision & Health reports that 24% of parents do not follow up for full vision exams for their children due to a lack of financial resources.[6]  One of the most common reasons parents give for not taking children to the eye doctor is the cost of care.  Besides expense, poor and low-income families often face additional barriers to accessing vision care for their children, including limited transportation and the inability to take time off from work—barriers that leave a vulnerable student population with undiagnosed and unaddressed vision problems.

[1] “Fast Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 Nov. 2009.<http://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/basic_information/fast_facts.htm>.

[2] “Access to Comprehensive Vision Care Services under SCHIP.” National Commission on Vision & Health. <http://www.visionandhealth.org/documents/FactsheetSCHIP123108M29FINAL.pdf>

[3] Zaba, JN. “Children’s Vision Care in the 21st Century and Its Impact on Education, Literacy, Social Issues, and the Workplace.” Journal of Behavioral Optometry 22 (2011): 39-41

[4]“Visual Impairment and Blindness.” WHO. <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs282/en/>.

[5] Basch, C.E. (2010). “Healthier Students Are Better Learners: A Missing Link in Efforts to Close the Achievement Gap.”  The Campaign for Educational Equity: Equity Matters: Research Review 6 (2010).

[6] “Vision Exams for Children Prior to Entering School.” National Commission on Vision and Health. < http://www.visionandhealth.org/documents/FactsheetVisionexams123008MAS26.pdf>

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