Public Health and Lions partner to offer vision screening for SK students

The Grey Bruce Health Unit is partnering with District A-9 of Lions Club International to provide free, in-school vision screenings for senior kindergarten students at Bluewater District School Board and Bruce Grey Catholic District School Board schools during the 2022-23 year.

The plan is to offer the vision screenings at Bruce Grey Catholic District schools in November and Bluewater District schools in the spring. The screenings will take place during the school day.

The screenings will be conducted by trained Lions Club volunteers and overseen by Public Health. They will consist of three simple, non-invasive tests, designed to help identify the most common vision impairments in young children.

These include Amblyopia (sometimes called “lazy eye”), Reduced Stereopsis (inability to recognize depth), Strabismus (more commonly known as “eye turn”), and Refractive Vision Disorder (such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism).

“We are thrilled to be collaborating with Lions Club International to provide this highly valuable service at such a critical time in the development of these young Grey-Bruce students,” says Chimere Okoronkwo, Senior Public Health Manager at the Grey Bruce Health Unit.

“We know that undiagnosed and untreated vision problems can impact students and student learning in significant ways. Early identification and treatment of vision conditions that can have few or no visible symptoms can play a big role in healthy childhood development.”

About 80 per cent of what a child learns in school is information that is presented visually, according to the Canadian Association of Optometrists. However, vision problems may go undetected in early childhood because children cannot always recognize that they have vision problems.

Parents and guardians will receive letters, with clinic dates and other information, from their child’s school prior to the start of the vision screenings.

Screening results will be sent home with students, along with a letter that encourages families to contact an optometrist about booking a routine, comprehensive eye examination for their child.

The in-school vision screenings are not meant to replace annual comprehensive eye exams with an optometrist and are not designed to detect all vision problems.

The Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends that children undergo at least one eye examination between the ages of two and five and that children aged five to 19 receive an eye exam annually. In Ontario, yearly eye exams are covered by OHIP until a person turns 20 years old.

The Ontario Public Health Standards provides a mandate for public health units in Ontario to develop visual health programs and services.

Public Health launched a vision screening pilot in the fall of 2018 in five local schools, with a plan to expand the initiative to all public schools in 2019. However, the expansion was deferred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.