Establishing Consistency and Accountability for Children’s Vision

 Vision and eye health in children younger than age 6 years is a national priority (Healthy People 2020; Office of the Inspector General, 2010).

Early identification of vision problems and eye diseases, including amblyopia, strabismus, and high refractive errors [hyperopia, myopia, astigmatism, and anisometropia], is critical for optimal treatment. Thus, children’s vision and eye health must be elevated in importance in the medical home and in public health and community settings.

Little consistency, however, exists among children's vision health stakeholders for screening procedures, frequency, referral criteria, and follow-up methods. The lack of standards for surveillance of children’s vision and eye health in the United States is yet another public health challenge.

The National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health at Prevent Blindness (NCCVEH) is an effort funded in part by HRSA- Maternal and Child Health Bureau to improve these public health challenges, as well as the system that supports children's vision and eye health in the United States.

NCCVEH is responding to the need for an improved system to support children’s vision and eye health by empowering key stakeholder groups to use:

1) Evidence-based vision screening practices and improved follow-up to eye care to help ensure early detection and treatment;

2) Integrated health data systems to track vision and eye health and improved surveillance;

3) State- and national-level performance measures to track program accountability and direct limited program resources.

 

Actions Needed NOW to Preserve Children’s Vision Health

Attention to vision and eye health in young children is critical to long-term vision outcomes. Unfortunately, many children do not receive timely vision screenings or eye care. Public health activities- including work by the NCCVEH to improve surveillance, vision screening, and access to eye care, and encourage state and local efforts to provide screening within the community- are critical steps for improving children’s vision and eye health in the United States.

What can you do? Take action now to:

-Identify gaps in the delivery of vision services, gaps in data collection, and gaps in state performance measures;

-Clarify confusion or lack of understanding of existing state laws, mandates, and protocols to align vision screening guidelines in your state;

-Establish a support system for your improved vision health approach which may include hiring new program staff or establishing a technical advisory body.

The NCCVEH convened a National Expert Panel comprised of leading professionals in ophthalmology, optometry, pediatrics, public health, and related fields to establish recommendations on how to improve the public health infrastructure supporting the early detection of children’s vision problems.

Key Stakeholders in Children’s Vision and Eye Health

Improving the system serving children’s vision and eye health must engage multiple stakeholders with a uniform mission. Working together, changes can be made to policies that will improve children’s vision and eye health. Key stakeholders to bring to the table include:

  • Public health leaders;
  • Vision and eye health care providers (Ophthalmology and Optometry);
  • Primary care providers/medical home;
  • Early childhood educators;
  • Early care and education agencies;
  • Families;
  • Community organizations;
  • Insurance providers;
  • Legislators;
  • State agency coordinators;
  • Funders.

About the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health

The mission of the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health at Prevent Blindness (NCCVEH) is to improve the systems that address children’s vision and eye health. To accomplish this mission, the NCCVEH is developing a coordinated public health infrastructure to promote and ensure a comprehensive, multi-tiered continuum of vision care for young children. This coordinated approach to vision health for children leads to a uniform implementation of successful screening programs, increased follow-up to eye care, improved surveillance, and stakeholder engagement.

Recommendations for a Comprehensive Vision Screening System

Recommendations from the National Expert Panel to the NCCVEH include:

  • All children aged 36 to <72 months should be screened annually (best practice) or at least once (acceptable minimum standard) during the interval between their third and sixth birthdays.
  • Vision screening requires training and certification of screening personnel with recertification of personnel completed every 3 to 5 years.
  • Vision screening programs must plan for acquisition of sufficient and appropriate space, as well as obtaining and maintaining equipment and supplies.

Children's Vision and Eye Health Report

A Snapshot of Current National Issues

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