Improving Our Children’s Vision

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This year promises to be great at the Vision Impact Institute (VII), and I am humbled and honored to now be leading such an amazing organization. The past two years have brought tremendous growth to the VII and to the conversation around refractive error. Global discussion has significantly increased around  vision health, specifically as it relates to academic performance, drivers’ safety and regulations, workplace productivity and even the independence of our world’s elderly.  Together we are making a difference!

Last month, we added more than 40 studies on the topic of children, and some recent findings surprised me. While we have all become keenly aware of the growing global myopia epidemic, there are additional issues surfacing that are related to childhood myopia. A 2016 study suggests a clear correlation exists between children with myopia and accompanying sleep disorders. Those with high myopia are most affected. Children with uncorrected vision already experience a deficit in academic performance, but couple this with sleep deprivation and a child’s ability to perform optimally could be significantly impaired over time.

Last week, as part of the Kids See: Success advocacy initiative, I had the opportunity to meet with Mayor Ras Baraka of Newark, New Jersey, to highlight the special vision needs of children and the importance of making eye exams a priority for the children in his city. Together with our partners,Kids See: Success is working to ensure kindergarten children in the United States have a successful start at learning through a baseline comprehensive eye exam.

But our advocacy on behalf of the world’s children doesn’t stop in New Jersey. In India we know that refractive error is the main cause of visual impairment in children between 7 and 15 years of age, accounting for 68.5% of this impairment. To address this issue, the VII has submitted  a vision pre-screening program for potential inclusion in teachers’ training modules. We recently learned the NITI Aayog (Central Policy Department) has circulated this document to various states and to the Central Department of Education, and we await an understanding of its adoption in the schools. It’s small steps like these that will help us change a child’s future, and we are excited about the possibilities!

Over the coming months, I look forward to sharing more on the topic of children’s vision and how we are using the research to create a better tomorrow. We would love to hear from you about how your organization is affording children the opportunity to learn through better vision. I am excited to share this journey with you as together we continue Giving Vision a Voice!

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