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Optometry-Backed Vision Care for Kids Act Approved by U.S. House
Date:10/15/2007

American Optometric Association Joins Reps. Green and Pascrell to Ensure that No Child is Left Behind Due to an Undiagnosed or Untreated Vision

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In order to ensure that school-aged children are ready and able to learn, today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Optometric Association-backed Vision Care for Kids Act of 2007 (H.R. 507). According to the AOA, the voice of 34,000 frontline providers of eye and vision care in communities across America, the legislation recognizes the link between healthy vision and classroom learning and seeks to provide new Federal funding to expand the reach of children's vision programs enacted at the state level.

Originally introduced by Representatives Gene Green (D-TX); Bill Pascrell (D-NJ); Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL); Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Vito Fossella (R-NY), the Vision Care for Kids Act would establish a federal grant program focusing on treatment and designed to bolster children's vision initiatives in the states and encourage children's vision partnerships with non-profit entities. H.R. 507 directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to provide $65 million in grant funding to proven efforts to allow more children, particularly those under 9 years of age who are already known to be at-risk for vision problems, to receive comprehensive eye examinations and appropriate care from their local optometrist or other eye doctor. Grants would also go toward supporting public education and awareness efforts designed to promote early detection and treatment of vision.

"Good vision is critical to learning. This important legislation will improve vision care for children to better equip them to succeed in school and in life," Rep. Green said. "Together, with the support of the American Optometric Association, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Vision Council of America, we will make a difference in the lives of children across the country."

Ten million children suffer from vision disorders, according to the National Parent Teacher Association. Vision disorders are considered the fourth most common disability in the United States, and they are one of the most prevalent handicapping conditions in childhood. Undetected and untreated vision deficiencies, particularly in children, can take a large toll. Studies have shown that the costs associated with adult vision problems in the U.S. are at $51.4 billion.

"I applaud the House of Representatives for recognizing the important role of vision care in the early development of our youngest students," stated U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, (D-NJ). "Eye health has a direct impact on learning and achievement. It is unacceptable that only one in three children will receive preventative vision care before they reach elementary school. Today's progress would reverse a careless oversight in the early development of America's children and open new worlds of academic and social opportunity."

Eye and vision specialists, such as doctors of optometry, are best able to diagnose and treat amblyopia and other vision problems, including strabismus, retinoblastoma, and other serious and potentially blinding problems that can lead to poor school performance and other issues that can ultimately affect quality of life. Amblyopia is treatable and preventable if caught within the early years of a child's life, but it remains the leading cause of vision loss in Americans under age 4.

"The Green-Pascrell Vision Care for Kids Act is an important 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," said Kevin Alexander, O.D., Ph.D, president of the AOA. "With nearly 25 percent of school-aged children suffering from vision problems, the AOA is proud to support visionary leaders like Congressmen Green and Pascrell in the effort to provide states with the resources -- the federal dollars -- they need to make children's vision and classroom learning a top priority."

Senators Kit Bond (R-MO) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) have introduced S. 1117, the Senate companion bill to HR 507, which has been referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

To find a nearby optometrist, or to schedule an eye examination for your child, please visit http://www.aoadrlocator.com.

About the American Optometric Association (AOA):

The American Optometric Association represents more than 34,000 doctors of optometry, optometry students and paraoptometric assistants and technicians. Optometrists provide more than two-thirds of all primary eye care in the United States and serve patients in nearly 6,500 communities across the country. In 3,500 of those communities they are the only eye doctors.

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 undergo three to four years of undergraduate study that typically culminates in a bachelor's degree with extensive, required coursework in areas such as 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 http://www.aoa.org.

Media Contact:

Alicia Kerry Jones

703-837-1373

akjones@aoa.org

Liz Torrez

312-255-3036 (o)

773-580-5640 (c)

Liz.torrez@hillandknowlton.com


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SOURCE American Optometric Association
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