InfantSEE® helps ensure a lifetime of healthy vision
Nothing compares to that moment when a baby really sees their parents for the first time, says Jennifer Smith Zolman, O.D. That's because it's not just about changing their sight for the better, but their life.
"It is the absolute best feeling," continued Dr. Smith Zolman, chair of AOA's InfantSEE® & Children's Vision Committee and an InfantSEE supporter since optometry school. Managed by Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation, InfantSEE and its nearly 4,000 volunteer doctors of optometry have provided no cost, comprehensive eye and vision assessments to well-over 145,000 infants since the program's inception, changing countless lives in the process.
"It is an amazing public health outreach to your community, where you can literally save and change the lives of these babies."
And Dr. Smith Zolman means that literally, not just figuratively. The early detection and intervention afforded infants in their first year of life by InfantSEE assessments have helped prevent a lifetime of vision complications, ranging from amblyopia and strabismus to sight-threatening retinoblastomas. But, even early intervention for routine refractive errors ensure infants have healthy vision for successful development.
The first six years of a child's life are crucial developmental years when youngsters are most susceptible to vision changes. Likewise, any unaddressed vision problems during this time can have an undue impact. But often, parents don't know their child suffers from problematic vision until they enter school.
In fact, 1 in 5 preschoolers in the United States have vision problems and by the time they enter school, 1 in 4 will need or wear corrective lenses, studies say. That's why AOA's evidence-based clinical practice guideline, Comprehensive Pediatric Eye and Vision Examination, recommends intervention at key milestones in children's development, including a baseline assessment between 6 and 12 months of age that immediately follows a critical period of eye growth and development.
"The babies that we are seeing are getting the early diagnosis and treatment they need, that otherwise may have been completely missed or delayed," Dr. Smith Zolman says. "Early intervention is so important in many of these cases. But, besides the clinical side of InfantSEE, the educational component is just as important."
InfantSEE in 2018
As a public health program, InfantSEE is committed to spreading word about the importance of comprehensive eye care beginning at six months of age. This determined public awareness ensures that eye and vision care becomes an integral part of infant wellness care to improve a child's quality of life. That's why in 2018, InfantSEE launched a campaign to get in front of parents' eyes.
In a national media tour titled, "Does Your Infant's Vision Make the Grade," this past September, Dr. Smith Zolman reached an audience of over 111 million Americans with a message about the importance of an initial eye assessment within infants' first 6 months. The campaign, combined with ongoing social media content, generated over 300,000 Facebook impressions as well as 8,000-plus 'likes' on Instagram.
Moreover, a new blog and podcast initiative this year brought InfantSEE's message to an audience of 74,000 readers and listeners, while 15,000 households received InfantSEE promotional postcards with AOA's recommended exam frequency for infants. But, InfantSEE's awareness wasn't only confined to the public.
Once again, InfantSEE took its message to schools and colleges of optometry nationwide, recruiting 466 optometry students to be InfantSEE providers upon graduation. That powerful program, in partnership with the Allergan Foundation, has ensured InfantSEE continues moving forward with more than a third of all InfantSEE providers today having graduated within the last 10 years.
"InfantSEE is your opportunity to educate families in your community on the importance of yearly comprehensive eye exams, which lead to a whole new generation of patients in your office along with their families," Dr. Smith Zolman says. "Please reach out to InfantSEE if you have questions or about how you can get started."
Make a difference today
Optometry Cares—The AOA Foundation is committed to seeing its vision come to fruition, raising awareness about the importance of eye health, increasing access to vision care, and providing support to doctors of optometry and students in need. Here's how you can help make a difference today:
- Consider a tax-deductible donation to Optometry Cares—The AOA Foundation as part of your end-of-year giving to help support InfantSEE and other initiatives.
- Learn more about becoming an InfantSEE provider and sign up today.
These 2018 initiatives were made possible, in part, by Johnson & Johnson Vision, The Allergan Foundation, Centene Charitable Foundation and CareCredit Synchrony Financial.
Find more children's eye health and vision care resources in the Pediatrics & Binocular Vision toolkit, and access the provider-to-provider letter for outreach to local pediatricians.
At the 2021 Leaders Summit, AOA-member volunteers set priorities for the year and launched new initiatives to lead the profession forward.
New AOA/AOSA Opportunities in Optometry grants provide underrepresented minority students assistance with entrance costs for optometry school—how you can help.