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Clearer vision for children

With parents under the false impression that children get their eyes checked at school, optometrists play an important role in looking after children's vision

AOP chief executive, Henrietta Alderman

The truism that children are the future is often quoted – and with good reason. We all have a responsibility to ensure that they are nurtured appropriately to reach their full potential.

Professor Kovin Naidoo spoke passionately at 100% Optical (6 February, London ExCeL) about the Brien Holden Vision Institute’s children’s vision project to upscale, accelerate and expand access to eye health services to more children around the world. And in this country, there is still much to do too.

Optometrists can, and do, play an incredibly important role in testing and in detecting abnormalities in children’s vision but unfortunately this is often a neglected part of children’s health screening within the primary care setting from preschool onwards.

The AOP position highlights the importance of testing for all children, but especially those with conditions where early intervention can prove successful. Our aim is to ensure that all practices are equipped to deliver eye care for young children.

"The AOP is in the process of updating its resources to help practitioners communicate and promote children's eye examinations"

All too often, parents are under the false impression that children get their eyes checked at school. However, screening programmes are patchy around the country and, given that significant refractive errors are the most common reason for vision screening failure, it is important that optometrists play a central role. Many parents are simply unaware that their children are entitled to an NHS-funded sight test every year.

While the prevalence of myopia in children is increasing, there is a possibility of limiting its progression using optical corrective measures through childhood and teenage years – presenting a growing role for optometrists.

It is rewarding in itself for practitioners to witness the results of a child being able to see properly. But a long-term relationship with families and the local community can also be built. The AOP is in the process of updating its resources to help practitioners communicate and promote children’s eye examinations.

Childrens eye health poster

Placing optical practices at the heart of a child’s eye health is essential. This links with the aspiration of becoming indispensable within the local community and to the NHS – which in turn sits at the heart of the Local Optical Committee Support Unit’s Breakthrough Strategy for Optics.

Delivery of enhanced services within the community is a massive challenge in some areas, but it does need a sector-wide effort to break through the barriers. The national bodies have a role in influencing from the top down, and all optometry practices have a part to play within their communities and through their local optical committees.

Not being involved is not an option.