As parents we often think that our son or daughter has good vision and therefore does not need an eye exam. Common misperceptions of why eye exams in children are not important include, my son doesn’t complain of blurry vision, my child’s grades are good, or the parents have good vision therefore the kids probably do too.
School screening don’t qualify as an eye exam. While an essential part of protecting the visual and physical health of our children, school screenings were never intended to replace a professional eye exam. School screenings prevent children from “falling between the cracks” and are best used to supplement regular eye care. Read more about safeguarding our children’s vision.
That is the opinion of The National Commission on Vision & Health, in a new report entitled “Building a Comprehensive Vision Care System“, found that 25% of school age children have undiagnosed vision problems and that correcting this must become a national health care priority.
Some of the vision problems cited in the literature review included undiagnosed nearsightedness, farsightedness, amblyopia, retinoblastoma, congenital defects, and strabismus. The report went on to state that a vision screening was not a substitute for an eye exam and that eye exams from an optometrist or ophthalmologist were a very effective way to detect vision problems in children.
In 2004 The Vision council of America estimated that the rate of undetected vision problems in children to be 25%. The 2010 National Health Objective 28-4 to reduce blindness and visual impairment in children and adolescents has experienced little progress in it’s goal to reduce childhood blindness.
In 2002 the American Public Health Association (APHA) issued a statement supporting regular eye exams in children to improve the detection rate of vision problems instead of regular screenings. APHA recommended eye exams at age 6 mos, 2 years and 4 years. A failure of the current screening program is the lack of follow through for children when problems are detected. “Most forms of vision loss in children are preventable. Improving the access to eye care for children should be as important as are our current childhood vaccination programs” said Dr. Richard Driscoll.
Sixteen states do not require any vision assessment prior to a child entering school. The remaining states require some for of vision assessment prior to a child entering school, however only five states require a follow up examination to the screening. Screenings are clearly not effective if the results are not acted upon. Only three states, Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri have legislated mandatory eye exams prior to a child entering school.
Cost was found to be an issue with getting visual assessments for children. Uninsured children did not receive a well child visit 54% of the time. Often a well child visit includes a visual assessment.
The recommendations of the study to improve access to eye care for children included funding national campaigns to educate the public regarding the need to seek care for their child, setting up national standards to be adopted by all states, assure adequate vision coverage by all public and private insurers.
For more articles written on The Eye Doc Blog on vision problems in children see