A vision-screening program that is to be implemented in primary schools around Australia has the potential to change the future for all of our children. Transitions Optical has partnered with Optometry Giving Sight (OGS), and practicing optometrists in local areas to deliver the Eye Didn’t Know That! community program which is focussed on detecting vision problems early.
The Optometrists Association of Australia also provided evidence based, clinical knowledge and insight to guide the program, which was piloted in the suburb of Elizabeth Grove in Adelaide in late July.
There was a buzz of excitement in the hall when the first classroom of kids lined up to have their eyes tested at Elizabeth Grove Primary School in South Australia’s lower socio economic suburb of Elizabeth Grove. The staff from Transitions Optical were accompanied by optometrists Theresa Jnguyenphamhh from Health Partners Modbury and locum Mandy Wilson, and Ron Baroni, Optometry Giving Sight’s Country Manager for Australia.
Four distinct stations, festooned with balloons and targets, marked the journey that each child would take as they were tested for visual acuity, cover testing, retinoscopy, organic problems (ophthalmoscopy) and colour vision. Once they’d completed the testing procedure, each child was presented with a personalised certificate and a show bag.
Many children, who may otherwise not have been picked up as having a possible sight problem, will be now brought in to see an optometrist…
Optometrist Theresa Jnguyenphamhh said the children were happy to have their eyes tested.
“The children were very young – five to eight years old – so we tried to keep the experience fun. From this pilot program alone we tested 79 students and found 46 needed further eye testing. Many children, who may otherwise not have been picked up as having a possible sight problem, will be now brought in to see an optometrist, which is a great result,” said Ms. Jnguyenphamhh.
Transitions Optical presented each child who needed further vision testing with a voucher they could take to their local optometrist enabling them to receive free prescription spectacles with Transitions lenses.
“Being a lower socio economic area, I imagine a number of parents would be nervous about taking their children to have their eyes tested because they would be worried about the cost of buying spectacles. By accessing this program, all the parents need to do is find the time to take their children in to the participating optometrist for the in depth vision testing – the glasses will be free,” said Ms. Jnguyenphamhh.
She said three of the children had previously been prescribed glasses although for various reasons they weren’t wearing them.
“One girl said her glasses were broken and her parents weren’t able to replace them.
A little boy wasn’t allowed to wear his glasses at school in case he broke them. The third little boy left his in the classroom,” said Ms. Jnguyenphamhh.
“It was rewarding to participate in the program,” she said. “I’ve participated in similar programs before and when the opportunity to get involved with Eye Didn’t Know That! came up, I was very keen. It’s really rewarding to screen these young children, knowing we can help those who need vision correction.
“Children with vision problems can fall behind in class very quickly. But if we can pick up these vision issues early, we can really make a difference to their learning, their concentration, and their confidence – just because they can see,” said Ms. Jnguyenphamhh.
Eric Breda, Business Director for Transitions Optical Australia and New Zealand, is passionate about the program because it will provide children access to eye care and make a positive and meaningful impact on their long-term eye health and education. It is estimated that 25 per cent of Australian children are affected by undetected vision problems, which can have a negative influence on learning.1
“Children’s eye health is most important to us, but we are also focused on creating a lasting effect by educating schools and families about the importance of visiting local eye care practitioners for regular examinations thereby forming better relationships between communities and their local practices,” explained Mr. Breda.
To do this, Transitions Optical has developed an information website with sections for children, parents, teachers and program partners. Additionally, the company has developed a complete school education kit, which includes lesson plans for teachers and eye care professionals to present either individually or together at schools in their communities either before or following the screening. The lesson plans can be downloaded from the website and the kit can be ordered.
Ron Baroni from Optometry Giving Sight said the program is another great step towards the prevention of blindness and vision impairment in Australia.
“By raising awareness of the need for children to receive regular eye exams we’re taking an important step in improving Australia’s long term eye health in the future,” said Mr. Baroni.
Based on an Existing Program
The Australian ‘Eye Didn’t Know That! program has been adapted from a successful program rolled out by Transitions Optical in the United States and the UK, which has been running for a number of years.
Additionally, the OAA has guided the program with evidence based, clinical knowledge and insight.
The four individual stations used to test the children at Elizabeth Grove Primary School were created by the Transitions Optical marketing team in Adelaide based on work each of them have done in the community in the past. The individual stations made the process seamless for teachers and volunteers to take kids from one testing area to the next.
The screenings started after the school bell rang and finished early in the afternoon, with each class of between 15 to 20 children ushered in by their teachers to the registration desk, where volunteer Sarah Neville ticked off their names and handed them their vision screening form.
Kerry Brock and Vanessa Dingle from the Transitions marketing team introduced the kids to the company’s optical dispensers Jason Bowen and Steve Balaza at the first station for their visual acuity and cover testing.
The kids then waited at the next station to see the optometrist before proceeding to the third station where Di did a colour test. Once they finished the colour test the kids rushed over to Ron Baroni who congratulated each one for being so good before handing them a certificate and show bag.
“We really want to thank the teachers and volunteers who joined us on the day. The kids were amazing. They were so well behaved and patient,” said Kerry Brock.
“It was great to be able to be here to do these screenings. It will make such a difference to the lives of these children. Everyone from our team is so keen to keep doing this work. We all loved working with these kids. It was not only fun to do this but life changing – for both the kids and for us. To be able to roll this program out around Australia will be really exciting,” she said.
Going National – Would You Like to Help?
Having completed the pilot program in South Australia, Transitions Optical, in conjunction with OGS will take Eye Didn’t Know That! national.
“Our aspiration is that Eye Didn’t Know That! will be launched nationally and continue to support better vision for children and their education now and in the years to come,” says Mr. Breda.
Transitions Optical is calling for volunteers from the industry to take part. Practices, optometrists, dispensers, educators and staff are encouraged to contact Transitions Optical for more information and to register their interest in participating in the program.
For further information or to express your interest in participating in the Eye Didn’t Know That! program go to: www.eyedidntknowthat.com.au or send an email to: email@example.com for details.
1. Optometrists Association Australia