By Kristan Gross | Global Executive Director | Vision Impact Institute
Before our children are even born, we’re making the best efforts to set them up for success – from ensuring we take in the proper nourishment for our developing babies to selecting the best doctors for their childhood. In some cases, we already have their futures mapped out before we even know their gender or see their hair color. Yet when those same children go to school, many find themselves at a roadblock simply because they cannot see clearly.
Around the world, millions of children suffer from poor vision, and as a result, their ability to learn can be hindered. Experts cite that up to 80 percent of all learning occurs visually, leaving kids with poor vision at a major disadvantage. In fact, a recent study shows that children who have visual acuity worse than 20/20 are three times more likely to fail an entire grade level in school.
The fact is that poor vision among children is a universal issue – it’s not only limited to developing countries. Solutions to improve access and resources to correct poor vision in children must be prioritized, even in the developed world. Studies show that globally more than 239 million children would benefit from a simple pair of eyeglasses. Yet global trends like increased screen time and minimal outdoor time are leading to more children with myopia than ever before – and the numbers are increasing exponentially.
Early detection and correction are key to ensuring all children have an opportunity to experience good vision, which will provide a significant baseline for learning. The American Optometric Association recommends eye exams for children at varying life stages, including a comprehensive exam between ages three and five or before a child starts school. In fact, poor vision, unlike many other childhood conditions, is highly treatable. In many cases, even more serious vision conditions that are detected through an eye exam can be corrected early, thereby avoiding permanent vision loss.
Early intervention for healthy vision can have lasting effects over a child’s lifetime. Studies indicate improvements in early literacy and math and reading scores on standardized testing, as well as increased wages over a lifetime for children who have early intervention for more serious vision issues.
This month we are reminded to prioritize healthcare on the World Health Organization’s World Health Day. And while our health care is critical, I believe we cannot afford to wait any longer to implement solutions that protect and mitigate vision challenges for children around the world. Let’s make World Health Day an opportunity to speak up for the priority of vision health in overall health care. Let’s continue Giving Vision a Voice!
Compliments of Essilor, a member of the EACCNY