More than 12.1 million school-age children have some form of vision problem, yet only one in three children in America have received eye care services before the age of six. The National Eye Institute reports that the most prevalent and significant vision disorders of preschool children are amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (crossed eyes), and significant refractive error – each of which can be identified and addressed early if children are screened for possible problems and receive adequate follow-up vision care.
As one component of a continuum of comprehensive vision care, Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children and Adolescents, the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force (USPSTF), and Healthy People 2020 Objectives for the nation recommend that all children be screened for detectable vision problems between the ages of 3-5. To address these recommendations, HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau awarded a three year cooperative agreement to Prevent Blindness America to support the public health role in assuring a continuum of eye care for young children within the healthcare delivery system by forming the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health.
The National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health supports the development of a public health infrastructure to promote and ensure a comprehensive, multi-tiered continuum of vision care and eye health for young children. The National Center is committed to conducting this work through strong partnerships, sound science, and targeted policy initiatives.
The National Center is working closely with five state pilot initiatives (Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Ohio) to identify and enhance children’s vision services within those states. In addition to working directly with these five states, the National Center is also assessing the status and capacity of all states to meet the Bright Futures, USPSTF, and HP2020 recommendations.
The Center focuses its efforts on achieving the following three core elements:
The National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health serves as a central resource for health promotion and leadership development. It is also a resource for education and training in respect to children’s vision and eye health for public and private entities throughout the United States.
The National Center established a National Expert Panel comprised of national experts in ophthalmology, optometry, pediatrics, public health, academia, and others who have a stake in the field of children’s vision. Members of the Expert Panel provide recommendations towards the establishment of national guidelines for quality improvement strategies, vision screening, and developing a continuum of children’s vision and eye health. In addition, they serve as advisors to the National Center as it pursues its core goal of developing and implementing a uniform strategy for universal screening of children from age 3 through entrance into school.
It is our expectation that the work of these pilot projects will lead to a set of clear best practices for universal vision screening, and ultimately result in a performance measure to monitor implementation of the Bright Futures, USPSTF, and HP 2020 guidelines and objective regarding vision screening. HRSA looks forward to continuing our partnerships with the vision health care community to obtain universal vision screening that includes a continuum of comprehensive eye care for early and continuous screening, diagnoses, and treatment.
The National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health collaborates with the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other professional associations including the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Optometric Association.