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Parents Overwhelmingly Support Requiring Comprehensive Eye Exams for Children Entering First Year of School (PR Newswire) ...``lazy eye``) and even life-threatening conditions such as brain tumors.... - Sep 06 1:36 PM ET


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Posted on: 09/06/2001

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Thursday September 6, 1:36 pm Eastern Time

Press Release

SOURCE: Vision Council of America

Parents Overwhelmingly Support Requiring Comprehensive Eye Exams for Children Entering First Year of School

Survey Results Demonstrate Backing for State Legislation

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Parents across the country believe -- by a four-to-one margin -- that a comprehensive eye exam should be required for children entering their first year of school, according to a recent survey released by the Vision Council of America (VCA). These findings come at a time when a number of states are considering legislation that would have kids get a comprehensive eye exam before they enter Kindergarten.

Although 98% of Americans think vision is important to do well in school, too many children nonetheless enter school with an undiagnosed vision problem. Studies show that 80 percent of all learning during a child's early years in school is obtained through what they see. Yet 10 percent of all preschoolers and 25 percent of students in Kindergarten through 6th grade -- one out of every four -- have vision deficiencies, according to the American Public Health Association.

"A vision test should be the first test any child should take -- even before they set foot in the classroom," said Susan Taub, MD, member of the Better Vision Institute -- an expert advisory panel to the VCA. "Making a comprehensive exam a prerequisite to the first year of school helps our children succeed and ensures that they are equipped for a lifetime of learning and achievement."

Diagnosing vision disorders in children at an early age allows parents and doctors to take action at a time when disorders are highly responsive to treatment. Early eye exams can help reduce unnecessary placement of children in special education programs and could also reduce social welfare spending by improving children's ability to learn and succeed in life.

Nationwide, 92 percent of Americans would support a requirement for an eye exam if insurance coverage was available or charitable assistance was available for parents who could not otherwise afford the exam. Typically, private health insurance plans cover eye exams, and for low-income families exams are covered by Medicaid of a state's Children's Health Insurance Program.

The national survey of 1,011 adults, which was conducted July 11-15, also found that a majority of Americans (89%) believe that the simple vision screening -- a distance vision test using the big "E" (Snellen) chart -- is not a sufficient test and that children should have a comprehensive eye exam. While vision screenings for children are useful for offering an early indication of problems relating to distance vision, they miss other critical vision deficiencies that can impact a child's eye health and development such as color vision or visual alignment. These functions are critical to a child's success in school, whether reading the blackboard, reading a book, or learning on a computer.

Kentucky passed mandatory eye exam legislation last year. Preliminary data collected on 3,000 students who have had the exams revealed a wide variety of previously undiagnosed conditions, ranging from a need for corrective glasses to diagnoses of sight-threatening conditions such as amblyopia ("lazy eye") and even life-threatening conditions such as brain tumors. Specifically, one-in-eight 5-year-olds and one-in-five 6-year-olds were determined to need corrective glasses or other follow-up care.

VCA recently launched a consumer education campaign to encourage regular comprehensive eye exams for children and adults. For more information on this campaign go to http://www.checkyearly.com . Consumers can get a free copy of a brochure on eye health by calling 800-424-8422.

The Better Vision Institute is a unique body that brings together the vision community's three professional disciplines -- ophthalmology, optometry and opticianry. It provides the only forum in which these three professions can come together to address America's vision health. It is an independent, not-for-profit advisory board to Vision Council of America.

Vision Council of America is a nonprofit trade association representing the optical industry. VCA is available to supply reporters with industry statistics, product for photo shoots and expert spokespeople.

SOURCE: Vision Council of America

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