AOA president: Annual eye exams set students up for success

August 3, 2023
It is said that a message must be repeated multiple times before it sinks in with an audience. During a satellite media tour, AOA President Ronald L. Benner, O.D., used that strategy to extol the essentialness of annual back-to-school eye examinations and link them to student performance in the classroom.
Dr Benner on a back to Shool segment on TV

In a 6½ hour satellite media tour on July 27, AOA President Ronald L. Benner, O.D., conducted 30 interviews, back-to-back, linking for the public the relationship between comprehensive eye examinations and student performance in the classroom as youngsters prepare to head back to school in August.

New York-based Viola Kanevsky, O.D.The television interviews, some live and some taped in the largest media markets in the country, are ultimately expected to reach and repeat to millions of Americans, especially parents. Dr. Benner wasn’t the only AOA member echoing back-to-school messages; New York-based Viola Kanevsky, O.D., also promoted the essentialness of comprehensive eye exams in her practice in an interview with CBS with a mother and daughter as the school year approaches.

Dr. Benner’s key messages:

  • Children can experience problems in school—behavioral problems, headaches, poor academic performance—that may be traced to a vision problem. Comprehensive eye exams can detect eye and vision troubles.
  • Vision screenings, such as those offered in schools or pediatrician offices, are no substitute for a comprehensive eye exam by a doctor of optometry. Parents should prioritize scheduling yearly exams with doctors of optometry, leaders in primary eye health care.
  • Because eye and vision problems can worsen over time, early diagnosis and treatment are key to optimizing children’s eye health and preventing future vision loss.
  • Parents are encouraged to visit the AOA’s doctor locator on the Eye Deserve More page, AOA’s public awareness campaign, to find an optometrist nearest them.

The AOA messages were amplified by ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates in over 20 states including Maryland, Ohio, California, Alabama, Texas, Michigan, North Carolina, Connecticut and Florida. Below is a sample of Dr. Benner’s responses to interviews.

Why is eye health so important in learning and childhood development?

“The American Optometric Association believes that eye health and vision disorders can greatly affect a child’s school success,” Dr. Benner said on “Good Morning Mid-Michigan.” “We know that about 80% of learning happens through the visual system, and unfortunately children aren’t always able to tell you if there’s a problem. Those visual defects can lead to academic performance decreases, lowered self-esteem, decreased athletic engagement and even poor social interaction. So, we recommend parents get their child into their local doctor of optometry for an in-person, comprehensive exam to help their child be successful in the classroom.”

How has the increase in the use of digital devices impacted children’s vision?

“In today’s world, kids spend between six and nine hours a day on average on digital devices,” he told a host in Houston, Texas. “That’s a lot. That’s a lot of visual fatigue. We’re looking at ways we can reduce that, and one of the things parents can do is to encourage the 20-20-20 rule, which means every 20 minutes looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Making sure that the visual system has a chance to relax and reset before returning to that device. The other aspect of it is getting children off those digital devices at times. Recent studies have shown that two-plus hours a day of outside activity can greatly reduce the amount of nearsighted development. And that’s big. It’s hard to get kids off their devices, but it is important that they do take time away from them.”

Why are annual, in-person eye exams essential for students returning to school?

“We strongly encourage annual eye exams for children,” Dr. Benner said during his interview on “Your California Life.” “You know, unfortunately the school screenings are sometimes misleading. They only test what a child can see one eye at a time at 20 feet away, and that’s only about 4% of what a comprehensive eye exam tests. During that testing with your eye doctor, we will test for focusing, flexibility, tracking, pointing, binocularity as well as ocular health. Your local optometrist can diagnose 270 different diseases during that eye exam. So, getting your child in for that annual, comprehensive exam is vitally important to the child’s development.”

As an example, a 2022 satellite media tour with Jason Compton, O.D., for the Eye Deserve More public awareness campaign generated 685 airings across the country and 71.2 million impressions from television, radio and the internet. Watch one of Dr. Benner’s interviews.

Resources for doctors of optometry

Children’s vision has long been a priority issue for the AOA and its doctors. Based on doctors’ expertise and experience, the AOA has developed several outstanding resources for eye care professionals to engage patients.

View a trove of back-to-school resources on children’s vision for doctors of optometry to reach parents including short videos, a PowerPoint presentation, and full and abbreviated versions of the groundbreaking AOA Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guideline: Comprehensive Pediatric Eye and Vision Examination, as well as other tools for doctors.

Eye Deserve More 3.0 is reaching the millions of Americans experiencing the effects of screen time but are not working with an AOA doctor to improve their overall health. This year AOA’s campaign is showing patients firsthand how gaming and eye health go together with the launch of Blink Land, the first-ever eye-healthy mobile game that teaches players about eye health; its relation to screen time through minigames, facts and trivia; and proper care of their eyes, so they can continue to play.  

Access the Eye Deserve More toolkit and other resources for sharing.

Learn more and download Blink Land.

Related News

As eclipse edges closer, AOA promotes safe viewing

Doctors of optometry demonstrate their expertise as excitement builds over the April 8 total solar eclipse. AOA President Ronald L. Benner, O.D., urges the public to watch the event “safely and wisely.”

Link between eye examinations and fall prevention in older adults

📽️ Comprehensive eye examinations are among the chief ways of preventing potentially deadly falls in adults 65 years and older, according to the American Public Health Association’s (APHA’s) newly released policy statement. For many people at risk of falling, an annual eye examination could be a lifesaver, the APHA statement says.

‘Inadequate to meet demand’: Report spotlights declining ophthalmology workforce as America’s eye health needs grow

Ophthalmology’s report paints a stark contrast between the two eye care physician workforces as the surgical specialty’s workforce adequacy plummets to second worst in coming decade.