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Optometry, Senator Bond Call For Better Vision Care For Children

Armen Hareyan's picture

Vision Care For Children

American Optometric Association highlighted the national need for better eye health care, which will help prevent vision problems that can interfere with young children's learning.

Sen. Bond has introduced the "Vision Care for Kids Act of 2007," S. 1117, with the support of the AOA and other leading eye care groups.

"Good vision is critical to learning. This important legislation will improve vision care for children to better equip them to succeed in school and in life," Sen. Bond said. "With the support of the American Optometric Association, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Vision Council of America, together we will make a difference in the lives of children across the country."

S. 1117 would establish a federal grant program focusing on treatment to bolster children's vision initiatives in the states and encourage children's vision partnerships with non-profit entities, including groups as committed to the cause of safeguarding the sight of America's children as state optometric associations. Nearly 25 percent of school-age children today have vision problems, according to a federal study.

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"As senator, and previously as our governor, Kit Bond has always put the health and education needs of our children first," said Jeff Gamble, O.D., a Missouri Optometric Association member and practicing Columbia optometrist. "Today, with his leadership on S. 1117 and his frank discussion about the lifelong challenges he has faced from undiagnosed amblyopia, doctors of optometry across Missouri are particularly proud of his efforts."

In 2006, Senator Bond was presented with the AOA's Health Care Leadership award for his longtime advocacy for eye and vision care for children.

"The Bond Vision Care for Kids Act is an important assignment for Congress and a timely reminder for America of what needs to be done to help concerned parents and teachers ensure that no child is left behind in the classroom due to an undiagnosed or untreated vision problem," said Kevin Alexander, O.D., Ph.D, president of the AOA. "Optometry is proud to support true leaders like Senator Bond in the effort to provide states with the resources -- the federal dollars -- they need to make children's vision and classroom learning a top priority."

Eye and vision specialists, such as optometrists, are best able to diagnose and treat amblyopia and other vision problems, including strabismus, retinoblastoma, and other serious and potentially blinding problems that can lead to poor school performance and other issues that can ultimately affect quality of life. Amblyopia is treatable and preventable if caught within the early years of a child's life, but it remains the leading cause of vision loss in Americans under age 45.

Ten million children suffer from vision disorders, according to the National Parent Teacher Association. Vision disorders are considered the fourth most common disability in the United States, and they are one of the most prevalent handicapping conditions in childhood.

According to data from the Making the Grade: An analysis of state and federal children's vision care policy research study, 32 states require vision screenings for students, but 29 of them do not require children who fail the screening to have a comprehensive eye examination. Because up to two-thirds of children who fail vision screenings do not comply with recommended eye exams, many children enter school with uncorrected vision problems.

Undetected and untreated vision deficiencies, particularly in children, can take a large toll. Studies have shown that the costs associated with adult vision problems in the U.S. are at $51.4 billion.