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Bipartisan proposal introduced in US House to address children's vision impairment

News
Article

The Early Detection of Vision Impairment in Children (EDVI) Act would establish the first federal program to address children’s vision and eye health.

(image Credit: AdobeStock/Volodymyr)

(image Credit: AdobeStock/Volodymyr)

Prevent Blindness lauded the introduction of the Early Detection of Vision Impairment in Children (EDVI) Act in the US House of Representatives and is urging Congress to act quickly to pass the legislation.

According to a news release from Prevent Blindness, the legislation would establish grants for states and communities to improve children's vision and eye health through coordinated systems of care. It is a bipartisan proposal, co-sponsored by Congressional Vision Caucus (CVC) co-chairs. US Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Florida, and Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas.

"More than one in every four children in America, or roughly 19.6 million, have a vision problem requiring treatment," Jeff Todd, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness, said in the news release. "We know access to education, screenings, examinations, diagnosis, and treatment are critical to preventing vision loss, and this legislation is an important step in providing children and their families with those services and the healthcare they need and deserve."

Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the US Senate.

"As an American who has suffered from poor vision since childhood, I have a first-hand understanding of how critical early detection and treatment is when it comes to ensuring that all children have the best possible start in life," Bilirakis said in a statement. "Our landmark bill will ensure all children get the screening and care they need at the right age by creating the first-ever federally funded program to address children's vision and eye health.”

Bilirakis added the legislation will empower states and communities to improve systems of care for children and their families.

Veasey pointed out that pediatric vision and eye health are a critical aspect of a child's healthy development that has been overlooked for far too long.

"Healthy vision plays a key role in each child's performance in school - when a child cannot see, their education suffers,” Veasey, the newly appointed Democratic co-chair of the CVC, said in the news release. “The Early Detection of Vision Impairments for Children Act will ensure children, their parents, and their caregivers can access the eye care they need to thrive and succeed."

Despite the presence of numerous public health programs that support early childhood development, including children's hearing and oral health, there is currently no federally funded program in the United States that specifically addresses children's vision or that fosters a cohesive and equitable system of eye health for children.1

"Vision plays a critical role in children's physical, cognitive, and social development," Donna Fishman, director of the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health at Prevent Blindness, said in the news release. "Without early detection and treatment, uncorrected vision disorders can impair child development, interfere with learning, and even lead to permanent vision loss."

Prevent Blindness noted in its news release that visual functioning is a strong predictor of academic performance in school-age children. If left untreated, common vision disorders in childhood, such as amblyopia, strabismus, myopia, or hyperopia, may continue to affect health and well-being throughout the child's life.

Moreover, the organization noted in its news release that there are disparities in children's vision and eye health outcomes and access to eye care across the United States. Laws to address children's vision vary widely in approaches across states and often lack protocols for referrals to eye care providers and documentation to ensure eye care is received. States may also lack the necessary resources to adequately capture data on rates of received eye care, leading to challenges in addressing existing disparities among demographic sub-populations or in rural or under-resourced communities.1

Under the EDVI Act, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) at the US Department of Health and Human Services, will award grants and cooperative agreements for states, communities, and tribes to:

  • Implement approaches (such as vision screenings) for the early detection of vision concerns in children, referrals for eye exams, and follow-up mechanisms;
  • identify barriers in access to eye care;
  • reduce disparities in eye health; and/or
  • develop state-based data collection, surveillance, and performance improvement systems.

Resources will also be available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create a nationwide technical assistance center to provide guidance to any state or community implementing children's vision programs and to advance population health research priorities in children's vision.

The legislation is receiving support from a number of organizations, including the American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Academy of Optometry, American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, American Optometric Association, American Society of Ophthalmic Registered Nurses, Association of Clinicians for the Underserved, Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, Children's Vision Equity Alliance, Family Voices, Healthy Schools Campaign, National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research, National Association of School Nurses, and the School-Based Health Alliance, among others.

Prevent Blindness is seeking public support for the EDVI Act and its goal of promoting children's vision and eye health by contacting their Members of Congress and asking them to co-sponsor the EDVI Act. The organization is urging people to contact their representatives to support the legislation.

"Implementing the EDVI Act will take a systems-based, coordinated effort among a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including health care professionals, families, patients and the bipartisan leadership of Congress, as we seek to ensure all children have access to the care necessary to avoid preventable vision loss and blindness," Todd concluded in the news release.

More information on the EDVI Act and Prevent Blindness advocacy efforts can be found online.

Reference:
  1. Blindness P. Proposed Bipartisan Legislation Would Create First Federally Funded Program to Address Children’s Vision and Eye Health. www.prnewswire.com. Accessed May 15, 2024. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/proposed-bipartisan-legislation-would-create-first-federally-funded-program-to-address-childrens-vision-and-eye-health-302145323.html
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