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Health event offers eye screening to Houston-area children

September 4, 2018

More than 70 Houston-area children were screened for vision issues Friday, Aug. 24, at a back-to-school event, and those that needed it will receive follow-up care and a free pair of glasses.

The vision screening event at BakerRipley Leonel Castillo Community Center was funded by a $5,000 grant provided by UnitedHealthcare to Prevent Blindness Texas, an organization that works to fight blindness and save people’s sight through screening, educating, training and advocating, said Heather Shirk Patrick, Prevent Blindness Texas president and CEO.

“Basically, what that means is we’re going to serve whoever needs help in getting vision care. We have the ability as part of our mission to do events like today, where we educate the community and we screen them,” she said. “If they have an issue, we have the ability to provide resources to help them get to the next place where they need service.”

UnitedHealthcare Chief Eye Care Officer Dr. Linda Chous said checking children for vision problems is important because roughly 80 percent of their learning occurs visually.

“Studies show that providing glasses to children can help improve reading and math aptitude, which is a priority for families and our community,” Chous said.

Shirk Patrick said finding and addressing vision problems early on in students is key to helping them do well academically over the long haul.

“Your reading level at third grade is a predictor of your success in eighth and ninth grade,” she said. “The reading success in those grade levels basically determines whether you’re going to graduate or if you’re going to graduate college, which then obviously determines your future success.”

Chous said vision problems can also impact other areas of children’s lives as well.

“The inability to see clearly can affect a child’s physical, emotional and social development, which in turn can affect academic and athletic performance and, ultimately, self-esteem,” she said.

A recent UnitedHealthcare survey revealed that more than one-third of Americans think that children should have their first comprehensive eye exam by age 5 or later. But Chous said the first exam should actually be given at six to 12 months, followed by additional exams at three years and then before starting school at five or six years.

Shirk Patrick said the screenings Prevent Blindness Texas holds across the state help people realize that having good vision is critical.

“They don’t know how important vision is as part of their overall health, so we help connect the dots,” she said. “We help educate them, so they know what they’re at risk for and because vision impacts everything about your life — vision impacts the way kids learn, so it’s critical. And we can do something about it. It’s a solvable problem.”

Shirk Patrick added that adults should also get their vision screened, as directed by their doctor, citing that vision can be related to a number of health issues such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cancer and heart and mental health problems.

BakerRipley works with low-income families in the Houston area to provide them with opportunities and services. Prevent Blindness Texas and BakerRipley formed a partnership about six months ago, so Shirk Patrick said PBT comes to BakerRipley now on a regular basis.

Chous said offering the screening services for free allows more parents to make sure their children are seeing well while also raising awareness about the importance of vision health.

“We know access to eye care can be a challenge for some families,” Chous said. “By making this event open to the public, we are helping more people access eye care and providing an important reminder for all families to make an appointment with an eye care doctor during back-to-school season.”

To learn more about Prevent Blindness Texas, visit www.preventblindnesstexas.org.

tracy.maness@hcnonline.com

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