Suffolk schools get vision training

Published 8:04 pm Saturday, September 5, 2009

Four years ago, Prevent Blindness Mid-Atlantic began working with local Lions Clubs and foundations to provide better vision screening services to local school systems.

Since that time, the Lions Clubs International Foundation and the Lions of Virginia Foundation have raised enough money to train the school nurses of all the districts throughout the state.

“This year, we had reached the 75 percent mark,” said Melissa Perry, director of Community Programs and Public Health for Prevent Blindness Mid-Atlantic. “We went to the Lions Club, who had funded it and been the biggest support throughout the years, and they decided they wanted to finish the state.”

Because of this decision, school nurses in Suffolk Public Schools were treated to a day of training, as well as new supplies for enhanced vision screenings.

While vision screenings have always been mandated by the state, Perry said, those screenings are very basic and not insufficient for exposing many vision problems.

Prevent Blindness Mid-Atlantic’s certified vision screening program can more accurately detect vision problems in school-aged children and do so more quickly.

According to a Prevent Blindness Mid-Atlantic press release, thorough vision screenings, which include a stereopsis component that tests how the eyes work together, prevent blindness by identifying potentially blinding vision disorders while they are treatable.

Additionally, the organization has issued more than $240,000 worth of free eye exams and glasses to needy families through their certified school nurses within the past year alone.

In the past three months, Suffolk was one of the more than a dozen school districts in the state where Prevent Blindness Mid-Atlantic workers trained nurses.

Perry said the rest of the state districts should receive their training by the end of the school year, at the latest.

“It’s just a matter of getting it out there and making it available to everybody,” Perry said.

Prevent Blindness Mid-Atlantic was founded in 1957, and is the only local non-profit health organization dedicated solely to the prevention and detection of vision problems, according to the company Web site.