School Based Health Alliance Conference Reflection

Written by Dr. Debra Tomek, Medical Advisor for Building Healthy Futures  

This year’s School Based Health Alliance annual convention held June 18-21 in Long Beach, CA exceeded my expectations again. With a theme of “Healthy, Resilient, & Ready to Learn,” my focus was to immerse myself in learning and networking with the best and the brightest in school based vision care across the nation. What I learned was that there is a whole body of research and incredible expertise within the discipline of optometry that can inform and shape much of what quality vision care can look like here in Omaha.

One session I attended was “Vision and learning and the role and impact of the medical and educational homes in providing universal vision care to children” by Dr. Bruce Moore, OD FAAO. Dr. Moore is leading a National Institutes of Health study on Vision in Preschooler and Hyperopia in Preschoolers. Their preliminary data shows uncorrected hyperopia (farsightedness) can be associated with reduced reading achievement. This study confirmed the relationship between vision and learning and the importance of screening for refractive error, visual acuity, and stereopsis in preschoolers. Follow-up and effective treatment of screening failure is critical to future academic success.

The second session presented by Kira Baldonado, Director of the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health (NCCVEH), discussed “The National laws and policies driving children’s vision policy.” Her presentation was informative as she painted the current state of vision care from a health systems and population vantage point.

  • Current State of Children’s Vision in U.S.: Our best estimate of the prevalence of vision problems is that they impact 5-10% of preschool-aged children and 20% of school-aged children. No public health surveillance standards exist to measure and to aid in quality improvement efforts.
  • Gaps in System of Vision Care: Only 52% of kids 3-5 years are screened for vision problems, and only 1/3 of all kids receive eye care services before the age of six years. The current state of vision systems of care allows duplication of services; vision health disparities for minority populations and children from families of lower income; poor distribution of preventive services; and continuing issues with academic achievement, health, and professional achievement in vulnerable populations

The expansion and deepening of vision networking connections within vision will certainly help us learn from the experience of others as we move forward with our vision collaboration. Our understanding of the current status, gaps, and opportunities for life and academic success for our kids has re-energized me to translate what we have learned into action.

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