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Doctors of Optometry Cheer Obama's Call to Action on Children's Vision
Date:2/6/2009

President Highlights Healthy Vision and Classroom Learning Link as SCHIP Legislation Signed Into Law

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Optometric Association (AOA), the voice for more than 36,000 frontline providers of eye and vision care in communities nationwide, today commended President Barack Obama for singling out the importance of eye and vision care when he signed an historic expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

"No child should be falling behind at school because he can't hear the teacher or see the blackboard. I refuse to accept that millions of our children fail to reach their full potential because we fail to meet their basic needs," said President Obama as he signed the bill into law during a White House ceremony on Wednesday.

The four-year reauthorization of SCHIP, approved by Congress on Jan. 29, will expand eligibility and funding to cover approximately 11 million children nationwide. Currently, SCHIP provides health coverage - including eye and vision care benefits set by the states - to about 7 million children of disadvantaged and low-income families. The reauthorization provides an additional $32.8 billion for children's health care over the next four and a half years.

"Optometry commends President Obama for recognizing from the start of his term the essential link between healthy vision and learning," said Peter H. Kehoe, O.D., president of the American Optometric Association. "The AOA has worked to make children's vision a top health care priority in Washington, DC. The President's statement on Wednesday, the significant expansion of SCHIP and the recent reintroduction in Congress of the AOA-backed Vision Care for Kids Act demonstrates that progress has been made but there's still more work to be done."

SCHIP was created in 1997 as a joint federal-state program to provide health insurance to children whose families cannot afford private health insurance but earn too much to qualify under the Medicaid program. It was initially funded at $40 billion, to be spent over ten years, and has been credited with reducing the number of children in the nation without health insurance.

About the American Optometric Association (AOA):

The American Optometric Association represents approximately 36,000 doctors of optometry, optometry students and paraoptometric assistants and technicians. Optometrists serve patients in nearly 6,500 communities across the country, and in 3,500 of those communities are the only eye doctors. Doctors of optometry provide two-thirds of all primary eye care in the United States.

American Optometric Association doctors of optometry are highly qualified, trained doctors on the frontline of eye and vision care who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the eye. In addition to providing eye and vision care, optometrists play a major role in a patient's overall health and well-being by detecting systemic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

Prior to optometry school, optometrists typically complete four years of undergraduate study, culminating in a bachelor's degree. Required undergraduate coursework for pre-optometry students is extensive and covers a wide variety of advanced health, science and mathematics. Optometry school consists of four years of post-graduate, doctoral study concentrating on both the eye and systemic health. In addition to their formal training, doctors of optometry must undergo annual continuing education to stay current on the latest standards of care. For more information, visit www.aoa.org.

    Media Contacts:  Matt Willette
                     O: 703-837-1001
                     MWillette@aoa.org

                     Liz Torrez
                     O: 312-255-3036 or C: 773-580-5640
                     liz.torrez@hillandknowlton.com


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SOURCE American Optometric Association
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