Optometry Giving Sight Australia was pleased to partner with Transitions Optical Australia and New Zealand to implement the Eye Didn’t Know That! (EDKT) in-school screening program this year. The program is designed to benefit children between 5 and 8 years old who attend government designated, lower socio-economic schools. Those children assessed as having a potential vision issue are referred to their local optometrist for a full eye exam and are provided with a vision voucher to cover the cost of a pair of glasses should they need them.
The first phase of the program has been a complete success, with the EDKT team exceeding their target, screening 1,667 children across 9 schools. With a solid and dedicated team of optometrists and volunteers in place the team plan to increase the number of children screened by 30% and expand the program interstate in 2015.
Whilst studies from Optometry Australia show that 20% of Australian children have some sort of vision issue, EDKT found that this figure doubled in many schools visited. The teachers were often aware of the students who had vision issues, however they felt there was little they could do beyond informing the parents.
“When possible I took the opportunity to speak with the teachers,” said volunteer optometrist, Hana Huynh. “Most expressed both relief and elation at the service we were providing, they knew the impact a pair of spectacles would make to their students learning and confidence.”
The Eye Didn’t Know That! program uses a two pronged approach to address the issues of accessibility by providing awareness of free Medicare benefits and a voucher for free glasses, if required.
“In addition to the vision screenings we have provided schools with a lesson plan to be taught in all classes,” said Program Coordinator, Brian Spiller. “So far we have received very positive feedback, students appear to enjoy the activities and teachers find it a great resource!”
The year was capped off with enthusiasm as The EDKT team was joined by Essilor staff, as part of their World Sight Day Challenge activities. Screening over 300 students in three days, the team were taken aback by how simple yet effective the program is. “Safe to say, you’ll have plenty of volunteers next year,” one Essilor staff member said.