One in four children and adolescents have a vision problem that can impede their learning. Many of these problems go undetected because children have not received the comprehensive eye exams they need to succeed in school and protect their vision for life.
Wednesday, at the State Capitol, the Board of Optometry took part in a press conference prior to the Assembly Education Committee’s hearing on AB 1110 (Burke), the measure to boost lifelong health and learning potential by connecting more California children under the age of 19 with comprehensive eye exams and vision wear. The cost would be covered through private or public health insurance plans.
Photo Credit: Cesar Altamirano, DCA
Those in attendance were; Rachel Michelin, California State Board of Optometry, Assembly member Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood), Senator Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) and representatives from the health, education and corporate communities.
Following the press conference that afternoon, the Assembly Education Committee voted 4-1 to pass AB 1110 on to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, where the bill is expected to be taken up at the end of May.
One in four school-age children suffers from vision problems. Although vision screenings done at schools help identify those kids, the screenings miss one in three with significant vision and eye health problems, according to the National Commission on Vision and Health. Also, 40 percent of the kids identified with vision problems do not receive follow-up care.
In an effort to ensure children receive appropriate eye care, the Board of Optometry (Board) has sponsored Senate Bill 402. If approved, the bill will require students entering elementary school to get a comprehensive eye examination by a physician, optometrist, or ophthalmologist. The bill passed both the Senate Education and Health committees, but was placed in suspense in appropriations.
To develop strong legislation for the next legislative session, the Board delegated a workgroup that is forming the Children’s Vision Coalition. The Coalition will work over the next year to educate the public, the Legislature, and stakeholders on the importance of comprehensive eye examinations for children.
According to the American Association of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, “Because a child’s visual system is growing and developing, especially during the 5–6 years of life, glasses may play an important role in ensuring normal development of vision.” Regularly scheduled comprehensive eye exams help ensure children maintain good vision and healthy eyes for success in school and other activities.
At first it sounds convenient and cost-effective—go online, get your eyes tested, and in exchange for a fee, you receive a prescription. You take that prescription wherever you want and get your glasses or contacts. No appointments, no fuss. Over and done.
However, be aware that perfect vision doesn’t necessarily mean healthy eyes. Substituting an online refractive test for a comprehensive eye exam can mean key issues could be missed and you could be putting your eye health—and possibly your overall health—at serious risk.
An online refractive test is a service provided through a website. They are vision tests used to determine the appropriate lens power necessary to correct your vision. You take a brief test online for a fee, then receive a prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses from a California-licensed ophthalmologist.
The California State Board of Optometry (Board) is one of the many healthcare-related boards that operate under the Department of Consumer Affairs. The Board, which licenses and regulates optometrists and the optometry profession, believes that routine, comprehensive eye exams are crucial. Comprehensive eye exams can reveal serious health issues such as cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, retinal tears and scarring, eye infections, and dry eye syndrome—conditions that cannot be checked or detected by an online refractive exam.
For more information, contact the Board of Optometry by phone at (916) 575-7170 or toll-free at (866) 585-2666, or visit the Board’s website, www.optometry.ca.gov.