Sen. Christopher Kit Bond (R-Mo.) introduced to the Senate new childrens vision legislation that would help provide exams and treatment for children who have possible vision problems.

The Vision Care for Kids Act (S. 3685) has garnered widespread support from the American Optometric Association, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, and the Vision Council of America.

Good vision is critical to learning, says Sen. Bond, who himself suffered permanent vision loss from amblyopia undiagnosed during his childhood. In fact, 80% of what children learn in their early school years is visual. This important legislation will improve vision care for children to better equip them to succeed in school and in life.

Specifically, the Vision Care for Kids Act would establish a federal program that awards grants to states to complement existing state efforts to:

         Provide comprehensive eye examinations by an optometrist or ophthalmologist for children who have been identified as having a possible vision problem through a vision screening or eye examination (with priority given to children younger than age 9).

         Provide follow-up treatment or services to correct vision problems.

         Develop educational materials to educate parents, teachers and health-care practitioners about signs of visual impairment in kids.

[This bill] is an important summertime assignment for Congress and a timely reminder for America of what needs to be done to help concerned parents and teachers ensure that no child is left behind in the classroom due to an undiagnosed or untreated vision problem, says optometrist C. Thomas Crooks, III, president of the AOA.

According to a recent Vision Council of America report (Making the Grade? An Analysis of State and Federal Childrens Vision Care Policy), 32 states require vision screenings for students, but 29 of them do not require children who fail the screening to have a comprehensive eye examination.

At press time, the bill had been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions for further consideration.

Meanwhile, the Childrens Vision Improvement and Learning Readiness Act (H.R. 2238) continues to gain momentum in Congress, with more than 200 cosponsors. Although similar in intent to Sen. Bonds Vision Care for Kids Act, this bill places greater emphasis on identifying children who have visual problems. It has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Health.

Vol. No: 143:08Issue: 8/15/2006