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InfantSEE®, The Allergan Foundation partner to advocate for infant vision awareness, education

March 12, 2012

The AOA’s InfantSEE® program announced its collaboration with the Allergan Foundation to create a program within the schools and colleges of optometry to increase access to optometric care for all infants in the United States.

“The Allergan Foundation is proud to support the mission of the InfantSEE® program. The optometric profession has a rich history in service and philanthropy, and this program will empower current optometric students, who are future practitioners and leaders in the profession, to be an integral part of changing how infant vision care is not only viewed but also provided in this country. By working together, we can establish a lifetime of vision health and wellness for our children,” said Julian Gangolli, Allergan Foundation board member.

The grant aims to increase access to optometric care for all U.S. infants through the continuum of care and expanded visibility of the InfantSEE® program that ultimately leads to comprehensive infant eye exams being covered as an essential defined benefit within federal health care legislation.

The partnership will further educate optometry students on how to properly perform infant vision exams and develop a comfort level that will inspire graduates to include infant vision as a core patient care service in their future practices.

“This partnership creates a unified force in delivering and expanding high-quality vision services to American infants, ensuring a lifetime of healthy vision,” said Denny Holter, chief advancement officer of Optometry Cares® – The AOA Foundation. “Optometry Cares® – The AOA Foundation, the InfantSEE® program, the Allergan Foundation, the profession of optometry, graduates of schools and colleges of optometry and, most important, infants will benefit from this collaborative endeavor to change the way everyone thinks about vision.”

InfantSEE®, a program administered by Optometry Cares®–The AOA Foundation, is a national public health program designed to provide a no-cost comprehensive vision assessment to infants 6 to 12 months of age regardless of household income or insurance availability.

Currently, there are more than 7,700 AOA-member volunteers who provide InfantSEE® assessments in all 50 states.

In partnership

In the partnership with The Allergan Foundation, the InfantSEE® program strives to meet the following main goals:

  • Assisting the next generation of optometrists in developing greater comfort and competency in the examination and treatment of infants and children
  • Partnering with the Allergan Foundation and motivational speaker and optometric advocate Tom Sullivan to reach new diverse audiences and elevate the importance of preventive and early detection of vision issues in all infants—particularly those at higher risk of vision problems or impairment as well as to stress the importance of a continuum of care for children of all ages
  • Increasing the awareness of InfantSEE® through coordinated efforts on the local, state and national levels while increasing the number of infant eye and vision assessments performed, especially in the targeted markets associated with the schools and colleges of optometry
  • Collecting data that further support the need for infant vision examinations to be a defined essential benefit by current and future federal health care legislation.

To meet these goals, the program needs to expand relationships with students, gather data and increase awareness.

The partnership intends to build grassroots relationships with optometry students for domestic volunteer service as well as supporting eye examinations within the first year of life as a defined essential benefit in health care plans.

This opportunity will empower current optometric students to be integral in changing how infant vision care is not only viewed but also provided. 

The program will gather data that supports the need for infant vision as a component of optometric education as well as a mode of practice for optometrists.  

They will also develop public service announcements and campaigns to accompany Tom’s Troops, a group of state leaders committed to the InfantSEE® program, and Sullivan’s work in the field assisting with opening doors to new contacts who have not been previously explored or available.

Opportunity

The InfantSEE® program has provided groundbreaking data that supports the prevalence of infant vision issues as greater than previously thought. 

When the InfantSEE® program was launched in 2005, available data indicated that there was a cause for concern (defined as need for follow-up care after the initial assessment) displayed by one in every 14 infants examined. 

In 2007, independent data analysis indicated the cause for concern was now one in every nine infants. 

During the 2009 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) InfantSEE® Weeks Pilot Project, administered by the InfantSEE® program, the cause for concern rate increased to one in six.  

Currently, the InfantSEE® program is administering a study through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to assess and evaluate infant populations in Iowa, South Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia, Maine, New Mexico, Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas. 

Collection of demographic information such as ZIP codes and annual income allow data to be analyzed and segmented to determine if there are geographical influencers or socio-economic issues that contribute to eye health disparities in infants.

This study represents nearly $1 million that Congress appropriated to investigate the significance and far-reaching impacts of infant visual health in the United States.

The creation of the Allergan Foundation and InfantSEE® partnership supports the InfantSEE® program’s mission to educate the American public that vision health begins in infancy and making an infant eye exam in the first year of life should be a regular part of infants’ vision.

“The opportunity to add the Allergan Foundation and Mr. Sullivan’s and others’ empowered and impassioned voices to the concerned chorus for infant visual health would be an excellent complement to the InfantSEE® program and would create a unique partnership where all the stakeholders benefit from supporting increased awareness and education on the importance of infant vision on every aspect of a child’s life and development,” said Holter.

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