Children’s Vision: Why Does it Count?
By: Kristan Gross, Vision Impact Institute, Global Executive Director
As a mother of three, I am convinced that parents will do just about anything for their children to be healthy. In fact, for years I believed I was doing everything for my children’s well being, but something was definitely missing - they had never had eye exams.
When I learned that poor vision could affect my children’s overall health, academic performance, and future opportunities, I did not hesitate to make appointments with an optometrist. I was shocked to learn that two of my three sons needed correction for myopia and one had a serious astigmatism. Vision correction truly changed my children’s lives!
Globally, 63% of children around the world in the 0-15 age group with vision impairment simply need spectacles to change the way they see the world. In fact, uncorrected refractive error is the leading cause of vision impairment around the world and is the second leading cause of blindness – yet 80% of vision impairment is correctable!
Studies repeatedly emphasize the importance of diagnosing refractive errors at an early age. Yet many parents, like me, are unaware their children have a problem. Often parents have no way to access an eye care professional, or financially cannot provide the needed correction for their children.
In some countries, schools may provide vision screenings for younger children; however, a study found that even if a child failed this test, 50 percent of parents were unaware of the failure two months after the screening. Furthermore, these screenings often do not adequately test for prevalent vision disorders such as amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (crossed eyes) or significant refractive error – and left untreated some of these can lead to permanent blindness.
According to a recent study in the United States, 174,000 preschoolers struggle to see due to untreated vision problems, and this number is only expected to increase. Myopia (nearsightedness) is also on the rise in all geographies, and hyperopia (farsightedness) in children is proven to create deficits in early literacy and essential skills that are associated with future problems learning to read and write.
Saving our children’s vision may seem like a daunting task, but together we have the possibility of ensuring a more literate and capable society if we simply break down barriers to vision care for our children.
Imagine how much more beautiful the world would be if every one of our children could see clearly.
On this World Sight Day, and every day, let’s make vision count!