End-of-year donation to InfantSEE® program can make a difference to infants’ futures

December 4, 2017
Doctors of optometry have voluntarily provided more than 6,200 eye and vision assessments so far in 2017.

When parents bring their children to his Brainerd, Minnesota-based practice, Kerry Beebe, O.D., looks forward to helping them see better.

"Providing care to children is very special," says Dr. Beebe, who has been conducting infant eye assessments through the AOA's InfantSEE® program since its inception in 2005. Managed by Optometry Cares ®—The AOA Foundation , InfantSEE and its volunteer doctors of optometry provide no-cost, comprehensive eye and vision assessments to infants within the first year of life, regardless of a family's income or access to insurance coverage.

"When you can play a role in identifying and treating visual conditions early, and then watch a child develop into their full potential, it is very rewarding," he adds. "Children will bring more smiles to your day than you ever thought possible."

Study after study supports the notion that eye care is essential to child development, helping young people fulfill their best quality of life. In the October 2017 issue of Optometry and Vision Science, researchers compared attention, visual motor and visual perceptual skills among 4- and 5-year-old children with uncorrected hyperopia.

Researchers represented The Ohio State University College of Optometry, Salus University at Pennsylvania College of Optometry, University of Pennsylvania Department of Ophthalmology, Indiana University School of Optometry, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Northeastern State University College of Optometry and the New England College of Optometry.

"Moderately hyperopic children were found to have deficits in measures of attention," they concluded. "Hyperopic children with reduced near visual function also had lower scores on VMI (visual-motor integration) and VP (visual perception)."

The sooner these conditions are detected the better.

"Early identification and treatment of hyperopia, astigmatism and strabismus, as a result of an InfantSEE assessment, may be able to improve the attention and visual-motor integration when that child reaches the ages of 4 or 5," says Dr. Beebe. "Interventions, when they are infants, may make learning to read and thrive in school more achievable."

How can doctors of optometry make a difference to these young patients?

"I would encourage all optometrists to become InfantSEE providers," Dr. Beebe says. "Even if you are not a provider, you can support the program by donating and help promote a lifetime of optometric care."

Educating the public

In 2017, doctors of optometry assessed the vision of more than 6,200 babies, as of Oct. 31. Since InfantSEE launched, more than 7,000 doctors of optometry have assessed about 138,000 infants (age six months to a year).

Among the conditions doctors of optometry are able to detect through the assessments are significant refractive errors such as hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism and myopia (nearsightedness).

"The assessment also can detect other risk factors for amblyopia such anisometropia, a difference in the power of the two eyes," adds Dr. Beebe, who serves on the Optometry Cares board. "Strabismus and the ability of the eyes to work together and move properly can be detected. Even in an infant, visual acuity—an important factor in amblyopia—can be assessed. Identification of eye health issues such as cataracts, glaucoma, retinoblastoma, optic nerve abnormalities, and others is a vital component of the assessment process."

Dr. Beebe has provided eye and vision assessments under the InfantSEE program from the get-go.

"I continue to be involved because the program gives doctors of optometry the opportunity to educate parents, the public and other health care providers about the importance of infant and children's eye care and introduce them to a lifetime of optometric care," says Dr. Beebe, who was recognized with the 2016 Dr. W. David Sullins Jr. InfantSEE Award.

"No other program has this potential to impact so many people and affect so many lives," he says.

InfantSEE, created by a partnership between Optometry Cares and Johnson & Johnson Vision, helps detect preventable eye disease and establishes eye care as a priority for families.

Optometry Cares supports a number of AOA philanthropic and charitable programs that benefit from donations including InfantSEE, VISION USA, Optometry's Fund for Disaster Relief and the Archives and Museum of Optometry.

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