Optometry Backs New Bill Before Congress

Optometry Backs New Bill Before Congress to Make Children’s Vision a Top Federal Priority

Senator Christopher Bond Uses Personal Experience and Guidance From AOA to Develop Legislation to Boost State Learning Initiatives

Congress will have the opportunity to consider legislation supported by the nation’s frontline providers of
eye and vision care aimed at making it a national priority to combat undiagnosed and untreated vision problems in school-aged children. “The Vision Care for Kids Act of 2006,” S. 3685, supported by the American Optometric Association (AOA), was introduced by U.S. Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-Mo.), a leader in Congress on education and health issues who still suffers from permanent vision loss due to his own undiagnosed amblyopia, or lazy eye, as a child.

“Good vision is critical to learning. In fact, 80 percent of what children learn in their early school years is visual. This important legislation will improve vision care for children to better equip them to succeed in school and in life,” Sen. Bond said. “With the support of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Optometric Association and the Vision Council of America, together we will make a difference in the lives of children across the country.”

“Senator Bond’s ‘Vision Care for Kids Act’ is an important assignment for Congress and a timely reminder for America of what needs to be done to help concerned parents and teachers ensure that no child is left behind in the classroom due to an undiagnosed or untreated vision problem,” said C. Thomas Crooks, III, O.D. and president of the AOA. “Optometry is proud to support a true leader like Senator Bond in the effort to provide states with the resources — the federal dollars — they need to make children’s vision and classroom learning a top priority.”

Senator Bond, who was presented with the AOA’s 2006 Health Care Leadership award on May 3, 2006, in Washington, D.C., has been a long-time advocate for eye and vision care for children.

“As Senator, and previously as our Governor, Kit Bond has always put the health and education needs of our children first,” said Thomas Hobbs, O.D. and president of the Missouri Optometric Association. “Today, with the introduction of S. 3685, and his frank discussion about the lifelong challenges he has faced from undiagnosed amblyopia, optometrists across Missouri, and our patients, are particularly proud of him.”

Ten million children suffer from vision disorders, according to the National Parent Teacher Association. Vision disorders are considered the fourth most common disability in the United States, and they are one of the most prevalent handicapping conditions in childhood.

“About 80 percent of all learning during a child’s first 12 years comes through vision. Vision problems that are not diagnosed and treated hinder learning, and — as happened to Senator Bond himself — cause permanent vision loss,” Dr. Crooks said, “That’s why the AOA and Doctors of Optometry across the country are working so hard to respond to this national concern through support for comprehensive eye exam programs in the states, legislation to help identify vision problems, the InfantSEE(TM) initiative and, from today forward, Senator Bond’s ‘Vision Care for Kids Act.’”

S. 3685 would establish a federal grant program focusing on treatment to bolster children’s vision initiatives in the states and encourage children’s vision partnerships with non-profit entities, including groups as committed to the cause of safeguarding the sight of America’s children as state optometric associations.

“Optometrists are on the frontline of eye care in communities across our country, and all too often we see the devastating toll on children and their families of vision disorders that were not diagnosed or treated
early,” said Kentucky’s Joe Ellis, O.D. and member of the AOA Board of Trustees. “S. 3685 recognizes that more must be done, and I’m proud that the AOA is already working with Senator Bond to see it become law.”

According to data from the Making the Grade: An analysis of state and federal children’s vision care policy research study, 32 states require vision screenings for students, but 29 of them do not require children who
fail the screening to have a comprehensive eye examination. Because up to two-thirds of children who fail vision screenings do not comply with recommended eye exams, many children enter school with uncorrected vision problems.

Eye and vision specialists, such as optometrists, are best able to diagnose and treat amblyopia and other vision problems. Amblyopia is treatable and preventable if caught within the early years of a child’s
life, but it remains the leading cause of vision loss in Americans under age 45. Universal eye exams for children entering school are critical for the early intervention needed to treat diseases and disorders such as
amblyopia, strabismus, retinoblastoma, and other serious and potentially blinding problems that can lead to poor school performance and other issues that can ultimately affect quality of life.

SOURCE American Optometric Association and PR Newswire

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