ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Parents are being urged by a member of the optometrist community to follow up on doctor referrals, as a staggering 22 per cent of students tested during a school eye-screening programme exhibited visual impairments.
According to preliminary statistics compiled from the Lions Club eye-screening project that commenced on May 21, 117 of 520 first and sixth grade students screened in government primary schools, thus far, have ocular health issues.
“It is very important for parents to take heed whenever they get the referral letter to take their kids to see an eye care professional,” optometrist Dr Byron Andrew said on OBSERVER’s Coffee Break yesterday.
Dr Andrew appealed to parents to “bring it home” by expeditiously responding to optometrist referrals, saying, “It doesn’t make any sense for the Lions (Club) to come up with this initiative. It doesn’t make sense that the professionals go out on their office hours to go to the schools to do this screening and it stops there. The race has to be completed.”
Currently, optometrists partnering with the service organisation have visited 16 of the 28 scheduled schools, where an estimated 1,100 students would be given free eye examination this term.
The optometrist advised parents and educators alike to be aware of signs of eye issues in children.
“When children are sitting too close to the television, there is something wrong; when kids are rubbing their eyes uncontrollably, there is something wrong; when kids’ eyes are just chronically red … and you start to see white things by the pupil … there is something obviously wrong,” Dr Andrew warned.
The Lions Club has enlisted four volunteer optometrists to facilitate the vision-screening programme, including Dr Jillia Bird, Dr Byron Andrew, Dr Glenn Edwards, Dr Salem Zreibi and two optometrist assistants, Jamilla Fabian and Willis Roberts.
The eye-screening programme was implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Education.