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HEHP grant helps Minn. ‘Good Sight for Kindergarten’ program reach children and families across state

January 11, 2013
‘Good Sight for Kindergarten’ eye care provider Mary Gregory, O.D., with young patient at Uptown Eye Care, Monticello, Minn.

‘Good Sight for Kindergarten’ eye care provider
Mary Gregory, O.D., with young patient at Uptown Eye Care, Monticello, Minn.

The goal of Minnesota’s “Good Sight for Kindergarten” program is to increase the proportion of children ages 5 years and younger who have had an eye examination by an eye care provider in the preceding 12 months. The program broadens Minnesota public understanding that good vision is directly linked to children’s ability to learn and read, and that comprehensive eye exams are vital for all children before entering kindergarten.

Combining an actual event with no-cost exams, the cornerstone element of the “Good Sight for Kindergarten” program is a statewide campaign to recruit Minnesota Optometric Association (MOA) members and offer no-cost eye exams for 5 year olds to emphasize the need for comprehensive eye exams before starting school.

Community involvement, outreach

MOA Board of Trustees member Michael Ackermann, O.D., developed an innovative program in his own practice that served as the “Good Sight for Kindergarten” program model. 

Good Sight for Kindergarten eye care provider Michael Ackermann, O.D., with young patient at Ackermann Total Eye Care, Lake City, Minn.

Good Sight for Kindergarten eye care provider Michael Ackermann, O.D., with young patient at Ackermann Total Eye Care, Lake City, Minn.

Later, the MOA received a Healthy Eyes Healthy People® $3,000 grant in support of the program, and Dr. Ackermann became the chair of the campaign.The MOA promoted the “Good Sight for Kindergarten” program on its website and featured other participating member ODs.

According to MOA Executive Director Beth Coleman, “Dr. Ackermann offered no-cost, one-time exams for 5 year olds in his community, and felt that because pre-K exams are so important, we should demonstrate that through good will and public outreach.”

Beginning in August 2012, through the “Good Sight for Kindergarten” program, MOA members across the state provided no-cost, comprehensive eye exams for 5 year olds, along with parent education and resources for further appointments and eyeglasses if needed.

Although Aug. 1 was proclaimed the official Pre-K Exam Day, practices across the state could schedule another date and some even dedicated the whole month to no-cost exams for children entering kindergarten.

Coleman continued, “The program educated families that pre-K and childhood eye exams are an important part of children’s overall wellness.”

The MOA supported the “Good Sight for Kindergarten” program with social media, brochures, local media relations, and a packet of customizable support materials including media releases and exam forms.

Practices demonstrated outstanding creativity and commitment by developing their own newsletters and website features, securing media interviews and sending direct mail to schools and individuals.

MOA welcomed by Minnesota State Fair

Just in time for school, the MOA also promoted children’s eye health at the Minnesota State Fair in August, where thousands visit every year.

The Minnesota State Fair is one of the largest state fairs in the nation and is often dubbed “The Great Minnesota Get Together.”

For 10 years, the MOA’s OD and staff members came out in force to volunteer at the MOA booth at the NBC affiliate’s Healthfair 11 Building.

Almost 5,000 fairgoers, from grandmas to toddlers, received Optos retinal screenings. And thousands more just stopped by to ask a question or pick up educational materials.

Not only did thousands of fairgoers find out more about healthy eyes and locate their local optometrist, the MOA also received TV coverage by KARE 11 TV.

According to Beth Gillthvedt, O.D., MOA volunteering eye doctor, “Where else can you get such exposure for the entire organization?”

In addition to its “Good Sight for Kindergarten” program and established presence at the Minnesota State Fair, MOA “Good Sight Goes Far” complimentary educational materials are available to the public on its website, including “The Complete Set for Educators,” and “The Parent’s Packet.” Materials include activities by age group, from kindergarten through sixth grade.

For more information, visit the MOA website at http://minnesota.aoa.org.

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