By Gayle Daniels, OD
There are over 12 million children in the U.S . who are in need of eyecare. A new initiative from the Essilor Vision Foundation seeks to change that.
Not far from many ODs’ offices there are children who are in need of vision services, some of whom have never had an eye exam. A new initiative from the Essilor Vision Foundation is asking optometrists to take the lead in their communities in bringing awareness of vision health.
Essilor Vision Foundation’s is committed to furthering eyecare in communities across the U.S. This is especially meaningful to me, as I’m the founder of Better Vision Better Hope, a program of the Fort Worth, Texas-based non-profit, Daniel Migael Foundation, Inc. By partnering together, we have provided free eye examinations and prescription glasses to homeless, indigent, uninsured and low-income adults. What makes our program unique is that we travel to the facilities, rehab or community centers to offer access to eyecare because all of the exam equipment is portable.
I was first introduced to Essilor Vision Foundation and their mobile clinic at a community health event in Dallas. I was a registered volunteer, unaware of the presence of the Essilor Vision Foundation’s programs and the resources offered to under-served communities. I was amazed that the Kids Vision for Life program has mobile clinics that help bring vision services to kids in need. Each mobile clinic is able to provide eye exams and in many cases distribute prescription glasses for the kids on the same day. The vehicles are fully equipped for eye exams and include a finishing lab for single-vision lenses.
Once Essilor Vision Foundation learned of my work in the community, they offered to help. Today we have a partnership serving those in need within the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Vision is a key element for having a chance to succeed in life. Whether it is in the classroom, filling out job applications, or trying to get a driver’s license, having good vision should not be based on one’s ability to afford eyeglasses or care.
Know Your State’s Requirements
for Screening Children’s Vision
Many states in the U.S. don’t require that children have their vision screened annually, making it even more important that optometrists take a leadership role in their community to ensure all children do receive eyecare.
Click HERE to download a PDF with information about each state’s vision screening requirements for children.
Good Vision & Eye Health Should Begin Early
Children generally lose, break or destroy their glasses before they are eligible for replacements under the current Medicaid programs. Essilor Vision Foundation helps provide them with glasses so they can continue to learn without vision challenges.
I have several friends who work in surrounding school districts, and the stories are all about the same: low academic performance and high behavior outbursts that can be related to students who are not wearing their glasses or a current prescription while in school.
Introduce Yourself to Your Community
I strongly suggest that you or your staff introduce your practice to all school nurses within a 10-15 mile radius. Typically schools must conduct vision screenings starting in October, and if the nurse knows you are willing to help those children without Medicaid or private vision coverage, it provides a relief for schools as they now have a community resource to provide parents.
I also recommend reaching out to local facilities and shelters that are safe havens for women and families with children. Sometimes they are forced to leave their normal home environment with such haste that they leave behind precious personal belongings like glasses.
Dr. Daniels provides care to a child in need in concert with Essilor Vision Foundation’s efforts to provide under-served communities with vision care. Dr. Daniels says there are children right in your own community who are in need of eye exams and products to correct their vision. Working with programs like those supported by Essilor Vision Foundation give you a way to lend a hand.
Take Leadership in Your Community
“Leadership” to me means “lead by example.” By opening the doors to your private practice, goodwill will spread within the community, hopefully encouraging other practices to become benevolent-minded.
Organizations like Prevent Blindness and Lion’s Club have eligibility requirements validating the financial need, and welcome the assistance of local eyecare providers. Offering 1-2 appointment slots per month can make a significant difference to those individuals receiving care.
Take a BenevolentApproach
When independent ODs get involved with community service, the awareness of how health care (specifically vision care) is deficient to the average family becomes real. As ODs we are able to address the importance of vision care to the community and leverage our business for the welfare of the neighborhoods we support. In my private practice, I have realized that the impact of education and advocacy is just as important as the eye exams and provided services.
The benevolent approach also allows the provider to educate the individual on potential ocular conditions in non-threatening methods. Most patients will quickly come in the office for the opportunity of a free eye examination and prescription glasses verses a medical referral that may harbor fear of the unknown. From my experience, once the patient has gained my confidence and understands that I care enough to provide services at no charge, I can easily educate them on the importance of maintaining eye health with annual examinations.This also gives me the opportunity to educate the parents on the importance of annual eye examinations for their child(ren) and the role vision plays in grades, behavior and overall success in school.
It is extremely rewarding to provide services to families with children in challenging situations just because you care. The experiences create a social impact that is invaluable to the optometrist giving their time, expertise and resources without expecting anything in return.
Gayle Daniels, OD, is the founder of the Daniel Migael Foundation, Inc., in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Daniels also volunteers her services with Essilor Vision Foundation (EVF). To contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
About Essilor Vision Foundation
Essilor Vision Foundation is a public non-profit charity established by Dallas-based Essilor of America, the leading manufacturer of optical lenses in the United States. We are a 501 (c) (3) public charity organized with a mission to “eliminate poor vision and its lifelong consequences.”
We strive to give children a brighter future by helping them see the world more clearly. Our programs focus on improving the quality of school vision screenings so fewer children slip through the cracks. We provide vision screenings, eye exams and new eyeglasses to children in need at no cost to the families. We also work to educate parents and communities about the importance of children’s vision care and the role it plays in literacy, society and the economy. To learn more or to donate, visit Essilor Vision Foundation at www.essilorvisionfoundation.org. Engage with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.