Eye health is something that is commonly overlooked in children. After all, we associate youth with health. A young body means young eyes, ears, and organs. What could go wrong?
The reality is that children can and do suffer from the same eye health issues that adults do. Some are born with these conditions and others experience issues that have developed due to health conditions, diet, injury, or lifestyle conditions. What many parents don’t realize is that many of the eye health conditions that children suffer from can be prevented or treated, and kids don’t need to go through life struggling to see.
Many times, children aren’t even aware themselves that they’re seeing abnormally. They need the assistance of teachers, parents, and other caregivers to ensure that they maintain visual acuity and the health of their eyes.
Unfortunately, many kids and their families don’t have healthcare that provides vision coverage, which means missing out on regular eye health examinations, or the inability to afford the corrective vision devices necessary. It is for this reason that vision health vans like Eyeleen were created and released to the American public.
The Van that Saves Vision
Eyeleen is a vision health van that is funded by OneSight, and often run by eye health volunteers. The van visits around 18 cities each year, providing services like comprehensive vision exams, corrective lens fittings, education on eye health conditions, and education on how to apply contact lenses. The van caters to the population of children who are generally overlooked by the vision health system, providing these children with exams and glasses fittings all in one place.
Eyeleen boasts the ability to create around 3,000 pairs of glasses for each stop that it makes. For more complicated eye health conditions, prescriptions are sent to participating local laboratories. This gives kids the chance to get exactly what they need, even if they are plagued with more complicated conditions. Additionally, the use of local laboratories allows children to get their prescriptions as fast as possible.
Getting Seen on Eyeleen
You may be wondering how a van like Eyeleen can provide such high quality care for so many children in such a small amount of time. Well, the process has been well streamlined. Prior to visiting the van, children are prescreened by their school nurses. The goal of working with school nurses was to get the widest reach possible so that all children in need could get assistance, even those that may fall between the cracks at local clinics. Additionally, Eyeleen has the option of offering free care, rather than low-cost, which still may eliminate the availability of care for some children.
Because prescreening is done at school, Eyeleen does not take walk-up traffic. While this may be off-putting, parents can track Eyeleen’s movements through the country to anticipate its arrival. Speaking to the school nurse can ensure that your child will be evaluated for services, and if they are approved, they will be seen on the van and receive free eye health care and a corrective lens fitting, if necessary. Parents can also volunteer time to help both OneSight or the Vision Van program. Any qualified local within the eye health industry is also encouraged to offer services to help offset the costs of the Vision Van program.
It is estimated that as many as one in four children suffers from an undiagnosed visual impairment. These children not only suffer in their personal lives, but in their educational lives. Much of learning is visual, and the American Optometric Association estimates that around 80% of children learn visually.
Visual impairments create a situation where children are at a disadvantage in the classroom. These children can easily fall behind, which can be devastating. This can be especially devastating because there may be no other learning impairments that the child suffers from. Eye health issues may impact self-esteem because the child feels that they aren’t as smart as the other children in their class. In reality, they have a correctable vision problem that is causing issues.
In the Meantime
Between visits from Eyeleen or other Vision Van programs, parents don’t have to sit on their hands. Even if you can’t afford a comprehensive vision care program, there are a lot of things you can do to encourage optimal vision health for your child.
Teach them to eat right! Eating a diet rich in antioxidants and other essential vitamins and nutrients is important to both the development of the eyes, as well as the maintained health of them.
Ensure their eye protection by purchasing a pair of 100% UV protection sunglasses, and a hat with a brim or bill to block the sun. The sun’s damaging UV rays not only damage the skin, but damage the eyes as well. While Vitamin D from the sun is important to eye health, it is important that you’re taking in the sun’s light without also taking in all the damaging rays.
Decrease screen time. There is a lot out there about limiting your child’s screen time, but one of the most important reasons is to encourage healthy eyes. The dim light of the indoors, combined with the artificial light from a computer, video game, or television screen can negatively impact the eyes. Limit your child’s time in front of the screen to bolster eye development and maintain eye health.