Go Ahead, Call Him Four Eyes
Everywhere we go, my little man gets all the attention. Being adorable (yes, I’m biased) helps, but people are always asking about his glasses.
When did he get them?
How did you know he needed them?
Was it a special screening, because our pediatrician didn’t do that?
Will he grow out of them?
Does he really keep them on?
I certainly didn’t know my now 18-month old son needed glasses. He would drop something small on a multi-colored rug and pick it up just fine. He would wave back to me from the other side of the room. Our daycare provider raised no concerns about development. The glasses were a result of a screening at his 12-month well visit.
In Massachusetts, where we live, visions screening are mandated at age three. That is when my daughter was first screened. When I took my son for his 12-month well visit, our pediatrician said she was trying out a new screening tool on younger children. She explained it let them get a head start on addressing any vision issues. Was I up for it? Seemed like a no-brainer.
The screening took less than a minute as the little man looked at a device the size and shape of a cell phone for a photo. Amazingly, they could diagnose on the spot that he was farsighted. A referral to a pediatric ophthalmologist confirmed the diagnosis and—a few tears later (mine not his)—the little man was fitted for glasses.
Vision plays a critical role in a child’s development. Vision problems can affect a child’s ability to learn, play and make relationships. When there is a vision problem, the brain must work harder to compensate. In the extreme, uncorrected problems can lead to permanent vision loss. Even with this knowledge, vision screening procedures, frequency, referral criteria and follow-up vary greatly across the country, according to the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health at Prevent Blindness (NCCVEH).
NICHQ is working with NCCVEH on an initiative to increase the detection and diagnosis of visual impairment in children aged five years and younger. The focus of the work is to enhance the capacity of state public health agencies to use and apply quality improvement to implement universal vision screening for preschool-aged children. Participants recently shared some key lessons-learned so other states can consider what strategies could be beneficial within their own systems and policy for children’s eye care.
We are lucky that my little man’s eyes aren’t too bad. If he didn’t get his first screening until age 3, it’s likely he would have had to patch the weaker eye to build it up in addition to the glasses. Our ophthalmologist said, in her experience, when they get glasses on kids before 2 years old, they are more likely to wear them than kids between 2- 4 years old. While anecdotal and not evidence-based, it seems like even more reason to make sure vision screenings are made available to children at well visits at younger ages.
As we continue at NICHQ to work with partners and stakeholder to have an impact on the children’s vision screening system, I’m thankful that our pediatrician offered the early screening. I’m lucky we have access to a high-quality pediatric ophthalmologist close to our home. I’m appreciative of the network of families of children with glasses that I’ve connected with online who provide support and guidance in the pediatric vision journey. And I’m amazed at how my little man embraces the glasses with gusto and infectious giggles.
Written by Cindy Hutter, MBA, NICHQ's Director of Marketing and Digital Strategy.
Improving Children’s Vision in Your State: Three Teams Share Lessons Learned
Early childhood eye care can drastically change a child’s health and well-being. For the past two years, improvement teams in Arizona, Ohio and Wyoming have been working to increase screenings and identify measures that can be spread to other states and communities. Here are some of their key lessons-learned.
A Proactive Approach to Early Children’s Vision Screening
As part of the Improving Children’s Vision: Systems, Stakeholders & Support (ICV) initiative, NICHQ is helping three states to develop comprehensive, coordinated approaches to improving vision and eye health for children under age 5. Introducing a systems-level approach can best overcome geographic and economic obstacles, and navigate the various components of state and community health systems.
Family Partners Help Create Sustainable Change
Parents of children with special health needs become experts on their children’s condition in a way that doctors and administrators cannot. Their countless hours on the front line, navigating the healthcare system and other community resources, gives them invaluable insight into how these systems work (and do not work) for them.
Building Stronger Systems for Better Children’s Vision Care
“Right now we have individual siloed programs that try to address children’s vision, whether it’s a school-based screening program or a community group or at pediatric primary care practices,” says National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health at Prevent Blindness Director Kira Baldonado. “They’re all working in different ways with potentially different outcomes, which leads to a lot of confusion and duplication of services for the parents. That needs to change, so that we’re making sure we get the necessary preventive services to the right populations.”
Improving Blurry Pediatric Practices for a Better Vision Health System
NICHQ is working to develop systems around vision and eye health for children ages 5 years old and younger. Currently, child vision assessments happen in many different settings—primary care offices, schools, public health clinics, community events. While exposure to assessments is a good start, each setting has its own standards, approaches and tools. This can result in different assessment outcomes.