OK Senate passes vision screening bill

April 15, 2006

Oklahoma City, OK?A state bill requiring children entering kindergarten, first, and third grades to receive vision screenings has passed the Senate and is being considered in the House.

Oklahoma City, OK-A state bill requiring children entering kindergarten, first, and third grades to receive vision screenings has passed the Senate and is being considered in the House.

The bill, supported by the Oklahoma Academy of Ophthalmology (OAO), requires screenings to be performed either by primary-care physicians, county health boards, or trained volunteers. Those who do not pass the screenings would be recommended to see an ophthalmologist or optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam.

Sen. Paddack, a former school teacher and the wife of a primary-care physician, said a lobbyist for the OAO asked her to sponsor the bill, one of many healthcare-related bills she has supported. R. Michael Siatkowski, MD, a pediatric ophthalmologist in practice at the Dean McGee Eye Institute in Oklahoma City, testified before her Senate education committee.

"The whole idea of a vision screening gives our children an opportunity to be successful in school, and you do that by making sure they have the vision they need," Sen. Paddack said.

She said volunteers-including members of Prevent Blindness Oklahoma-were already performing screenings in 77 counties but that a state mandate would ensure all children received proper care.

"If you want them to be successful in their educational career, they have to have good vision. Those just go hand in hand," she said.

Michael Duncan, executive director of the OAO, said the bill is similar to programs already in place in many other states.

According to the Vision Council of America's July 2005 report "Making the Grade," 30 states have a mandatory screening law on the books.

Meanwhile, Kentucky and North Carolina require all students to have a comprehensive eye exam, and Massachusetts and Ohio require mandatory exams for special-needs students. Massachusetts and Arkansas also require children who fail a screening to receive a comprehensive eye exam. Although the original Oklahoma bill required a follow-up exam, the language was changed after senators raised financial concerns, Sen. Paddack said.

"I know there have been studies . . . showing that screenings work," Duncan said. "They're effective in tracking down undiagnosed problems in children."