We all know that Massachusetts is the national leader in children’s health. Ninety-eight percent of our young people have health care coverage. No other state comes close to that rate. We also know that healthy children are able to learn and succeed in school. However, there is a critical area that is holding children in Massachusetts back—their inability to see the blackboard or words on a page. Vision disorders are the most common disabling condition of childhood, about 1 in 20 preschoolers and 1 in 4 school age children have a vision problem. Many children start school with undetected vision problems. It can be difficult to determine which children have trouble seeing as often there are no physical signs. Teachers and parents don’t know which kids can’t see. Kids don’t know that their vision is impaired because they have only their own experience to compare it to and to them, their vision is ‘normal’, even when it is not.
Recent NIH funded research reports a significant correlation between the status of a young child’s vision and his/her success in acquiring early literacy skills—ones necessary for learning to read.
Assuring optimal vision for all children is a solvable problem. We need help from the Commonwealth’s legislators to close the significant gaps in access, resources and awareness in the current system of pediatric vision care in Massachusetts. Twelve years ago, we took steps to address this with the passage and enactment of Ch 181 of the Acts of 2004, An Act Relative to Eye Examinations for Children. Now we need to work together to build a public health system for vision that supports case management, surveillance and evaluation which will lead to better access and improved outcomes for children statewide.
Help us accomplish our vision to assure that all children have the opportunity to develop their best possible vision.