Missouri recently became the second state in the nation to enact a law requiring comprehensive eye exams for children entering kindergarten and first grade in its public schools.
Gov. Matt Blunt signed SB 16 into law June 21. Clear and comfortable vision is essential for learning, and this new law will help Missouri children succeed and reach their full potential, Gov. Blunt said in a press release from the AOA. In its first year alone, we expect that this measure will help more than 136,000 children read and see chalkboards more clearly. All Missouri children deserve the tools they need to fulfill their potential, and our students will benefit from this law.
Vision screenings also required
The measure also requires vision screenings for children in first and third grades. Students identified as needing further care will be required to see an eye doctor for a comprehensive exam. The law, which was sponsored by Sen. Delbert Scott (R-Lowry City) and Rep. David Pearce (R-Warrensburg), takes effect July 1, 2008, requiring eye exams for students starting school in the fall.
We feel that this bill will go a long way [to address] undiagnosed childhood problems, specifically amblyopia and uncorrected refractive errors, as well as undiagnosed eye disease, Thomas Greene, OD, president of the Missouri Optometric Association and a Jefferson City optometrist, told Primary Care Optometry News in an interview.
Dr. Greene added that he thought building coalitions was key to getting the legislation enacted, a feat that was 7 years in the making.
I do believe most, if not every, state would love to have a law like this, but sometimes its difficult to accomplish politically, Dr. Greene said. We were fortunately able to build a coalition with eye surgeons and pediatricians, as well as a variety of teachers and educational association members. We certainly couldnt have done it alone.
Comprehensive eye exam requirement becomes law: Gov. Matt Blunt signs SB 16 into law as (from left) Rep. Terry Swinger, OD (D-Caruthersville), and several members of the Missouri affiliate of the American Optometric Association look on, including Tom Greene, OD; LeeAnn Barrett, OD; Jeffrey Weaver, OD; John Gelvin, OD; and Craig Brawley, OD.
Image: American Optometric Association
Results in Kentucky
Kentucky was the first state to require eye exams for students entering public schools. In an AOA survey conducted after the Kentucky childrens eye exam law was enacted, 14% of the more than 5,000 children entering the school system in 2000 needed corrective lenses, and numerous children were diagnosed with eye diseases.
With nearly 25% of school-age children suffering from vision problems, this law is necessary to help treat and prevent diseases that can cause vision loss, said AOA President Kevin L. Alexander, OD, PhD.
Ten million children have vision disorders, according to the National Parent Teacher Association. Nationally, about 86% of children entering first grade do not receive an eye exam.
For more information:
- The Missouri Optometric Association can be reached at 100 E. High St., Ste. 301, Jefferson City, MO 65101; (573) 635-6151; fax: (573) 635-7989; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.