Hall County School Systems want to help their students succeed, even if that means helping them with their physical needs, particularly their ability to see clearly. If a child has an issue seeing, it makes sense that they would have issues learning. So, now an organization is teaming up with the school system to make sure every child gets the vision care they need.
In partnership with Prevent Blindness of Georgia, the Hall County school system is giving every child a free vision screening, an eye exam with an ophthalmologist, and even free glasses, if needed. “There are no strings attached,” says Andrea Williamson-English, health services coordinator for Hall County Schools. “If the parent wants to participate, it doesn’t matter if they have Medicaid or insurance. The kids can be seen, and they can get glasses.”
According to Williamson-English, all the screenings should be finished by February. Those who have a need will be referred to a professional, and if that doctor determines that child should need glasses, they will be provided at no charge. She says it is all thanks to partners like Prevent Blindness, Lions Club and a grant from United Healthcare, which is largely covering the expenses of the project.
Williamson-English says that there is a great need for such services in Hall County. She is concerned that this area shows higher numbers of students with vision trouble than the national average. “We began noticing that our numbers were higher than most. Some schools have as high as 30% that need to be referred to an eye doctor. The national average is about 8%, so we are way above the need.” She goes on to say that the recent screenings at one school were more in line with the national average, but says, “many of our schools do not fit that description. We have a lot of need and we are pleased that we have these partners that are helping us with that need.”
Agreeing with her is partner Rebecca Davis, Director of Development for Prevent Blindness. “It is concerning that we have had such a high failure rate in Hall county over the last two years. That’s a really high percentage of the children who aren’t able to succeed or see without correction.” She adds that she is really glad to be able to assist these families who have not been able to get help before now. “A lot of the families have barriers to healthcare – like transportation or they aren’t Medicaid eligible.” She emphasizes that it wouldn’t be possible to give children the free care they need without the generous grant from United Healthcare.
Local ophthalmologists will be doing the exams and, while the goal is to actually have them on school property to do that, it hasn’t yet been determined. It may be that the child is referred to go to the doctor’s office. Either way, there will be no cost for the student.
The children who can take advantage of this program will benefit in multiple ways. “I think that’s the big thing. 80% of what a child learns is visual. So, by us removing this one barrier, we are moving education forward with just this one simple task,” says Williamson-English.
Williamson-English says she hopes parents will simply participate, saying there is no reason for a child not to have glasses. “When we send the letters home, we want people to participate. Obviously, we must have the parent’s permission and we really want them to take advantage of this. Let’s get glasses on children that need them.”
For more on the organization that is teaming up with Hall County to make this happen, visit the Prevent Blindness website at https://georgia.preventblindness.org/
According to their website, Prevent Blindness Georgia (PBGA) was founded in 1965 and is the state affiliate of Prevent Blindness, the leading voluntary eye health organization dedicated to the prevention of blindness and the preservation of sight. Focusing on the delivery of services to some of the state’s poorest and most vulnerable residents, PBGA provides no-cost eye exams and corrective glasses for people of all ages.