A child’s vision can change quickly as they age, requiring the need for consistent surveillance and screening protocols. Despite the benefits of early detection and intervention in preventing avoidable vision loss in children, significant access issues such as costs, inability to obtain coverage for vision and eye care, or inability to access an eye care provider due to geography, lack of transportation, or time away from work or school continue to leave children and families with unaddressed or under-addressed vision problems.
Currently, while numerous programs exist in children’s auditory needs and oral care, there is no established program in place that specifically addresses children’s vision and eye health or fosters a cohesive system of eye care for children on a national level.
Currently, only 41 states require vision screening for school-age children (6 to 17 years) and just 26 states require vision screening for pre-school aged children (3 to 5 years). States that have laws in place to address children’s vision vary widely in approaches, and may lack protocol for referrals to eye care and follow-up to ensure eye care was received. Most states lack the resources to integrate children’s vision data into existing systems and address disparities across underserved populations or under-resourced communities.
Prevent Blindness recommends a continuum of eye care for children that includes both vision screening and comprehensive eye examinations as a complementary approach to children’s vision and eye health. In addition, we promote policies that seek to realize a systems-level approach to children’s vision and eye health in areas of national surveillance, uniformity of screening best practices, reducing disparities in vision and eye care, and program accountability efforts. Each of these practices, when deployed together, will lead to a better use of limited resources and improve population health.