Methods of outreach
I partner with an optometrist colleague, and together we go into the community and talk to pediatricians, evaluate their screening setup and answer their questions about any issues they have. This grass roots approach has been very effective in our area.
We have also worked with local representatives to pass legislation, where appropriate, to facilitate proper vision screening. Louisiana does not have a mandate requiring proof of a vision screening before a child begins school.
The Medicaid program, however, which covers about half of the children in the state, requires a vision screening as part of many health tests for those ages 6 months to 5 years.
I believe that, requiring a full vision exam is wasteful and not an effective approach for our state. A potential result would be many children receiving exams from providers who are not specialists in children’s eye care and being prescribed unnecessary glasses.
This sort of inefficiency causes parents and caregivers to become frustrated with the entire process. Legislation in this capacity would require the necessary groundwork that ensures compliance with the law as well as funding for such an initiative. This approach is not a good fit for Louisiana, although it may work other in other states.
Our program is effective through our grassroots and collaborative approach. By educating key members of the community—primary care physicians, school nurses, and the Lions—to the importance of early childhood vision screening, we ensure they are engaged and aware of the need. By then being available to answer questions, address concerns and visit locations to evaluate their individual vision screening processes, we can help ensure no child falls through the cracks.
Alan B. Richards, MD, is a pediatric ophthalmologist at the Highland Clinic and Louisiana State University Health Science Center in Shreveport, LA. He has no financial disclosures to report.
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