Earlier this year Essilor Vision Foundation Australia launched a school screening program and has since tested the vision of more than 600 children in Queensland together with local opticians and optometry students. On average 35%-40% of the students tested were referred for a comprehensive optometrist examination and received a free pair of spectacles where needed.
Since February 2016 Essilor Vision Foundation Australia has carried out a series of screening events for local school children in Queensland. Thanks to the collaboration of many eager volunteers – local opticians and optometrist students – more than 600 children have had the opportunity to test their vision. On average 35%-40% of the children that were screened were referred for a comprehensive eye examination and received a pair of free spectacles if needed, sponsored by EVF.
The screening program has been applauded by local media which encouraged many more schools to apply. “Students, parents, guardians, school principals and teachers have embraced the school-screening model which offers mass screenings, subsequent referral to local optometrists for comprehensive examinations and good quality prescription spectacles which afford good vision for reading, distance or both” explains Chief Executive Officer of Essilor Vision Foundation Australia, Greg Johnson. The following five schools were part of this first round of the program and more will follow in the next half of the year:
- Harlaxton State School with 84 primary students screened and 37% that required a comprehensive optometrist examination;
- Holy Name School with 64 primary students tested and a total of 38% who needed further examinations;
- At Darling Heights State School volunteers screened the record number of 292 children of which 107 (37%) were referred on to local optometrists,
- Harristown State High School where 112 students were screened and 29% followed up with a full eye examination and
- St Saviour’s High School with a total of 60 students screened and 49% referred onto an optometrist for complete exam.
One of the volunteers who participated in the screening event at Darling Heights State School said: “‘Doing these screenings makes you feel good, because you don’t realise how many of these kids might have vision problems, and because of that might be having learning difficulties. It’s nice knowing that we are helping a number of kids who just needed glasses, which will ultimately help them in school.”
Doing these screenings makes you feel good, because you don’t realise how many of these kids might have vision problems, and because of that might be having learning difficulties.
A study released by the Australian college of Optometry in 2014 proved that vision problems were very common among school children with over 23% of all pupils tested having some kind of vision disorder. The study also revealed that children from private schools were three times more likely to have had a previous eye examination than children from public schools. There are indeed two major barriers that prevent school children from testing their sight: firstly, lack of awareness for vision problems and the negative impact they can have on an individual’s academic and later professional performance; and secondly financial inaccessibility, not only within developing nations but also in developed countries.
In the press release published along with the study, Maureen O’Keefe, CEO of the Australian College of Optometry, said, “Unfortunately the incidence of eye and vision disorders is highest amongst individuals and communities less able to access and afford full fee paying services offered in traditional clinical environments. In order to reduce eye health inequities, it is critical that subsidised public health eye care and accessible models of care are available to those most in need, including children dependent on parents experiencing disadvantage, indigenous Australians and displaced persons/ refugees”.
Essilor Vision Foundation Australia addresses this need through initiatives like this school screening program but also through other projects with a particular focus on disadvantaged members of Australian communities including refugees, migrants and people with mental illness. Pioneering actions such as these demonstrate that philanthropic eye care services can be provided to people in need with the involvement of local human resources. In line with Essilor’s mission of improving lives by improving sight, they bring us one step closer to making good vision accessible to everyone, everywhere.
The activities of the Foundation are the very best humanity can offer, making a difference in the lives of thousands of people worldwide.
Greg Johnson explains: “Since Essilor Vision Foundation’s Australian launch the lives of hundreds of forgotten people and thousands of everyday citizens have been touched. (…) The activities of the Foundation are the very best humanity can offer, making a difference in the lives of thousands of people worldwide.” He adds: “We are grateful for our growing band of volunteer optometrists, optometry students, Essilor staff, dispensers and practice managers for their kindness and we are indebted to Australia’s media agencies for outstanding coverage of Foundation initiatives.”
We invite you to scroll through the gallery above with many poignant moments captured during these screening events.