Eye problems affect more than a child’s vision. They can interfere with learning, impact academic performance and even cause behavioral issues.
To prevent these, the National Center for Children’s Eye Health and Vision recommends that all 3-5 year-olds in the U.S. should receive vision screenings since the most common vision problems need to be treated prior to 6 years-old. With proper diagnosis and treatment, 80 percent of eye issues are treatable.
But not all families have insurance or money for checkups. That’s where the Eye Mobile for Children provided by UC Irvine Health Gavin Herbert Eye Institute comes in.
Affectionately named Seymour, the mobile visits preschools, transitional kindergarten programs and community health sites in Orange County. Since January 2016, the team has:
- Conducted 4,860 vision screenings
- Performed 1,023 complete eye exams
- Provided 726 pairs of glasses
Through new partnerships, the program hopes to expand its reach. In January 2017, the Eye Mobile for Children joined forces with Families Forward, an organization that serves families struggling to make ends meet. This partnership will provide vision services to homeless children who typically don’t attend preschool and therefore often fall through the cracks for vision care. Additional partnerships through the Boys & Girls Club and the Newport-Mesa School District will also expand the Eye Mobile’s reach.
The program was the brainchild of Dr. Robert Lingua, a pediatric ophthalmologist with the UC Irvine Health Gavin Herbert Eye Institute. Lingua helped secure a $1.5 million First Five grant – money from state cigarette taxes that funds programs for children through age 5 – for the first three years of operation. Since then, more than $300,000 additional funding has been raised for the program.
But additional funding is needed for the program to remain in operation. If the van can continue to roll to students, it is expected to brighten the future of thousands of young children with vision problems.
“Adequate vision is critical to a child’s success both in school and in life,” said program director Iliana Molina. “By helping their vision improve, we are not only ensuring they can learn to read and write but also ensuring their cognitive ability reaches new heights.”