United Way begins new vision screening program

Gary Knox Elementary School students recently had the opportunity to pilot a vision screening program on their campus that is expected to be utilized at other county schools in the future.

United Way of Yuma County announced on Tuesday that it would be funding VisionQuest’s EyeSpy 20/20 program at Gary Knox Elementary with the intention of implementing it at more schools over the upcoming years.

As vision problems are reported as being one of the leading childhood health issues in the nation, United Way of Yuma County President and CEO Madeleine Coil said that the organization wanted to find a way to help correct that problem locally. According to Prevent Blindness America, one in four school-age children has vision problems that, if left untreated, can affect learning ability, personality and adjustment in school.

Falling in line with United Way’s health and education efforts – Coil said that the screening program has been proven to detect vision problems in children early on, so that they’re not falling behind in school.

“If kids can’t see and they’re struggling in class, they can’t learn,” she said.

The system allows for students to play a two-to-three minute video game while wearing an eye patch or 3-D glasses. It’s touted as being able to more accurately identify vision deficits and disorders that might not be caught during a typical eye exam.

“It tests depth perception and all kinds of other aspects of vision that might not be otherwise detected initially,” she said. “It does really do much more, and it catches more issues than just your basic screening.”

Coil explained that they leave it up to the teachers to identify students that might need the screening based on vision problems in the classroom.

After going through the screening, parents are provided with a printout of their child’s results to help support them in their endeavors to seek out treatment.

United Way is also looking at ways to take the program a step further and help connect families with healthcare providers that can conduct any additional screenings that might be needed. She said that they want to help address any barriers that may be preventing families from getting glasses or any additional treatment their children might need.

“We want to get the message out to parents about how significant a vision issue could be and how it could impact their child. This screening is really in-depth and should be taken seriously.”

Coil said that United Way of Yuma County plans to implement the program, targeted toward K-6 students, at all Crane Elementary School District campuses in the fall with the intent of expanding to other districts the following year.

Once in place, she said that the annual cost of the program is minimal. The initial investment to start the EyeSpy 20/20 program in a district is $4,950 with an added amount of $495 for each subsequent school. There is also an added $100 cost for various accessories.

Those interested in donating to help support the cost of the program can do so by contacting United Way of Yuma County at 783-0515. People can also visit www.visionquest2020.org for more information about the program. More than 400,000 children have utilized the screening across the state. Arizona is one of eight states in the U.S. that does not currently require vision screening.