h1

NYSOA kids’ program increases eye care awareness, highlights importance of children’s sun protection with help of HEHP grant

March 14, 2013
SUNY third-year student volunteer Jessica Scherer performs visual testing with a student.

SUNY third-year student volunteer Jessica Scherer performs visual testing with a student.

Specifically targeting the five boroughs of New York City, the goal of New York State Optometric Association’s “Kids Do Care for Eye Care!” program is to deliver comprehensive eye screenings for children and adolescents, determine undiagnosed vision problems, and emphasize the importance of ultraviolet (UV) sun protection. Participating organizations include various community centers in Spanish Harlem, Harlem and Brooklyn, and the State University of New York (SUNY) State College of Optometry.

Because UV exposure may increase the risk of retinal damage and cataract development, the “Kids Do Care for Eye Care!” program reinforces the importance of eye protection from the sun. Through the program, children are screened for early signs of sun damage to their eyes, and eyeglasses provided include photochromic polycarbonate lenses to protect against UV rays.

SUNY volunteers performing test students’ vision. “We use various shapes with the children to point out the connection between visual and conceptual because what a child sees through their eyes is processed in their brain, too,” said Dr. Portello.

SUNY volunteers performing test students’ vision. “We use various shapes with the children to point out the connection between visual and conceptual because what a child sees through their eyes is processed in their brain, too,” said Dr. Portello.

Thanks in part to a $4,000 Healthy Eyes Healthy People® (HEHP) grant received through the New York State Optometric Association (NYSOA), Program Director Joan K. Portello, O.D., has continued to expand her work with children in the community through the “Kids Do Care for Eye Care!” program, providing vision screenings, sun protection, and more.

Dr. Portello is a 26-year SUNY faculty member and a private practitioner for more than 23 years in Seaford, N.Y. Dr. Portello is also the director of Metro Games at the Special Olympics Lions Club Opening Eyes program. She is known for her many professional affiliations, awards, publications, and community service involvement.

In Spanish Harlem, the NYSOA got the word out as the program was presented as part of an annual event for children and families known as “free community health and fitness day.”

Dr. Portello tracks children in need of follow-up vision care to ensure they receive necessary services. If comprehensive eye exams are needed, the grant allows children to receive full eye exams, eyewear and vision training.

“SUNY has been very gracious in providing optometry student volunteers to help with the program, sending mailings and using its website to announce program lectures throughout the year,” Dr. Portello said. “Working with SUNY is a win-win, and the many student volunteers provide a wonderful learning experience for all.”

Joan Portello, O.D., shows off third-graders at the Benjamin Altman School in Chinatown.

Joan Portello, O.D., shows off third-graders at the Benjamin Altman School in Chinatown.

“To help reach low-income Asian-American children, we visited classes at the Chinatown elementary school,” Dr. Portello said. “The principal of the school was very happy with the program, and we’ll be scheduling another visit soon.”

After the vision screening, if a child is in need of further vision care such as eyeglasses or vision therapy, an appointment is made for the child to be seen at SUNY, where an eye exam and eyeglasses are provided.

“Many parents don’t realize the importance of UV eye protection and sometimes take vision for granted,” Dr. Portello said. “With the help of many SUNY student volunteers, we deliver eye care and protection from ultraviolet (UV) rays to children where it’s needed most.”

The “Kids Do Care for Eye Care!” program is instrumental in the New York City area because while many children may already have state health insurance aid, parents may not seek eye care for their children. Also, parents may not realize the connection between good vision and academic performance.

The children’s vision screening includes visual acuities cover tests, ocular motility assessment, pupil evaluation, direct ophthalmoscopy, retinoscopy, auto-refraction, accommodative facility testing, non-contact tonometry, biomicroscopy, motor free visual perceptual test (MFVPT-3) and the Gardner reversal frequency test. Detailed consent forms explaining the tests are signed by parents or guardians prior to testing.

An added benefit for the children is the one-on-one attention they receive.

“It’s great to see the children’s faces light up during the screening,” she said. “It’s also important for them to know that someone cares – it’s not just about school or learning – it’s about their vision and overall health as well.”

Congratulations to the New York State Optometric Association and Dr. Portello for receiving a HEHP grant that helped make the “Kids Do Care for Eye Care!” program possible.

Healthy Eyes Healthy People®

The AOA and Optometry Cares® – The AOA Foundation, through a generous grant from Luxottica, offer the Healthy Eyes Healthy People® state association grants. The grants provide funding for collaborative community programs involving optometrists with government agencies and health care advocates to address the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Healthy People objectives through a comprehensive approach to meeting the vision and eye health care needs of America’s infants, children, adolescents, adults and seniors. For more information, visit www.aoa.org/hehp.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: