Support AOA’s InfantSEE® program making a difference to newborns’ eye care

Support AOA’s InfantSEE® program: Making a difference to newborns’ eye care

Supporting the AOA's InfantSEE® program is a slam dunk, according to two longtime volunteers in the vision-saving program—whether that support comes through a donation or signing up to be a provider in the program.

Optometrists have the necessary skills and tools to provide early assessments and by doing so, raise awareness in their communities.

For Glen Steele, O.D., chair of the InfantSEE and Children's Vision committee, the program's numbers tell the story of lives changed by early identification and intervention. That's incentive enough for doctors of optometry to sign up as providers, Dr. Steele says. The program provides no-cost, comprehensive eye and vision assessment to infants between the ages of six months and a year, regardless of a family's income or access to health insurance.

Managed by Optometry Cares—The AOA Foundation® InfantSEE is built on the premise that early detection is critical to a child's development and quality of life.

"InfantSEE data for the past 11 years has consistently shown that 10 percent of the infants need intervention or follow up for risk factors, whereas traditional models find two to three percent," Dr. Steele says. "This statistic alone should encourage optometrists to be a part of the solution.

"Optometrists have a responsibility to raise awareness of the need for early identification and intervention," he adds. "Optometrists have the necessary skills and tools to provide early assessments, and by doing so, raise awareness in their communities."

Public good

In April 2016, the online journal Current Biology published a study, "The Social Origins of Sustained Attention in One-Year-Old Human Infants," conducted by Indiana University researchers. The study linked infants' ability to sustain attention when following their parents' gaze to the development of language in children.

Since InfantSEE's start nearly 12 years ago, more than 130,500 assessments have been done by the program's volunteer providers. To date, in 2016 alone, about 3,700 providers have conducted 6,790 assessments on infants. Sponsors include Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc., The Allergan Foundation, Envolve Benefits and The Centene Charitable Foundation, Cleinman Performance Partners and CareCredit.

"Whether an optometrist sees children, parents or grandparents, everyone should know about the need for early identification and intervention through InfantSEE," Dr. Steele says. "Any and all of these patients will ask about their child or grandchild, so everyone should have a ready answer about InfantSEE."

Making a difference to families in her community led Mary Gregory, O.D., FCOVD, who practices in Monticello, Minnesota, to enlist.

Dr. Gregory also operates a vision therapy clinic, Omni Vision & Learning Center, where she works with patients needing visual rehabilitation. Dr. Gregory and her associate, Miranda Lepinski, O.D., see about 100 babies under the program per year. "The AOA originally had President Jimmy Carter as a spokesperson for InfantSEE and his story was compelling to me," Dr. Gregory says. "He has two grandchildren with amblyopia, one of which was undetected until well into grade school.

"I have always loved working with children and adding InfantSEE to my practice seemed like a great opportunity to give back to my community—and play with cute babies while I was at work," she says. "The program has also given me an opportunity to educate families about vision and early detection of problems. I love this part of my job. Parents are eager to learn as much as they can about how to care for their child and what things to look for to identify a problem."

Good business

Beyond the good it does for public health, InfantSEE is smart business, doctors of optometry say. Often these patients tell their friends and family about the education Dr. Gregory imparts, which can result in referrals. She called it the "cheapest marketing we have done with a quantifiable return" on investment.

"Once the family is in my office, I can visit with the parents during the exam and get to know them," Dr. Gregory says. "While the children are in your chair, it is easy to educate parents about vision and the need for them to return at three years old and again at five years old. Often they have other siblings along and we can book appointments before they leave."

"At least one provider in the practice should be comfortable with children and participate in this program," she says. "Other clinics in your area may not provide this service."

Dr. Steele had some tips for integrating InfantSEE into doctors' practices, including:

  • Scheduling appointments at times when babies are not ready to nap or feed makes it easier.
  • Have all of your equipment and toys for examining an infant or young child in one room in order to make sure everything is handy.
  • Thinking in terms of areas of assessment rather than just tests. The Chairside Guide to Infant and Toddler Eye and Vision Examination (ages 0 to 36 months) chair-side reference, prepared by the InfantSEE and Children's Vision committee, is a useful resource covering tests, areas of development and medications for various ages. The guide is currently only available to AOA members who are InfantSEE providers. The InfantSEE & Children's Vision committee is currently working on "Optometrist Practice Reference Materials for Pediatric Care," which will be released in 1Q2017 to all AOA members and will include the chairside guide, along with other reference materials.    

How can doctors of optometry help?

November 28, 2016

comments powered by Disqus