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National Expert Panel Provides Recommendations for Vision Health Systems for Preschool Age Children

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To address the need of an effective approach in helping to ensure the vision health of children across the country, the National Expert Panel (NEP) of the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health (NCCVEH) at Prevent Blindness has published recommendations providing an evidence-based approach to vision screening in children ages 3 through 5 years, as well as system-based public health strategies to ensure improved surveillance and program accountability as it relates to children’s vision in the United States. The recommendations are published in the January 2015 issue of Optometry and Vision Science, and are further discussed on the special NCCVEH-hosted Vision Health Systems for Preschool Age-Children website. Marshall B. Ketchum University’s Susan Cotter, OD, MS, served on the panel and as the first author of the paper describing the recommended practices to implement for evidence-based vision screening.

In 2009, Prevent Blindness was awarded a grant from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau at the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to establish the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health. The mission of the Center is to develop a coordinated public health infrastructure to promote and ensure a comprehensive, multi-tiered continuum of vision care for young children. The NCCVEH convened the NEP, a panel of leading professionals in optometry, ophthalmology, pediatrics, public health, and related fields, to review the current scientific literature, explore best practices, and gain consensus on the best approach to vision screening for preschool children.

“In an ideal world, every child would have heath care coverage for and easy access to a comprehensive eye examination by an eye care professional,” said Susan Cotter, OD, MS, Professor of Optometry at Marshall B. Ketchum University. “But this is not the current reality in the U.S. There are, however, opportunities for preschool-aged children to receive a vision screening; for example at the pediatrician’s office, in a Head Start program, or at a community screening. The NEP’s goal was to develop evidence-based guidelines that would provide the “most bang for your buck” in terms of identifying the children in need of further evaluation by an eye doctor. In these instances, an effective vision screening is an important first step to saving vision and putting our kids on a path of healthy development. However, there also must be mechanisms in place to make sure that the children who fail the screenings receive appropriate follow-up care with an optometrist or ophthalmologist.”

“We don’t want kids falling through the cracks,” said Kristine Huang, OD, MPH, Chief of the Pediatric Eye Care Service at the University Eye Center at Fullerton.  “We want to identify vision problems early, not when children are already in elementary school. By publishing these recommendations, the National Expert Panel is providing an excellent first approach to helping our kids achieve a lifetime of healthy vision while improving public health surveillance and program accountability.”

The NEP has written three papers targeting children aged 36 to less than 72 months entitled:

  1. Vision Screening for Children 36 to <72 Months: Recommended Practices
  2. Vision and Eye Health in Children 36 to <72 Months: Proposed Data System
  3. Vision and Eye Health in Children 36 to <72 Months: Proposed Data Definitions

For a copy of the recommendations from the National Expert Panel of the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health, please visit visionsystems.preventblindness.org.  Alternatively, contact Dr. Kristine Huang at 714.449.7435 or Dr. Susan Cotter at 714.449.7488 if further information on the NEP’s recommendations or additional information on general children’s eye care is desired.