All aboard the Vision Bus?

A mobile optometry programme run by the University of Auckland has highlighted the need to improve access to eye care for Kiwi schoolchildren and has kickstarted a fundraising drive for a new mobile ‘vision bus’.

Featured on TVNZ’s One News, the screening scheme, with optometry students carrying out eye tests in Auckland primary schools, found 20% of children tested had vision problems.

At present, schoolchildren across New Zealand have their eyes tested before starting school then again at intermediate school, leaving a gap in care and one in 10 primary schoolchildren without glasses, when they need them, said Professor Steven Dakin, head of the School of Optometry and Vision Science at Auckland University.

Speaking to One News, Prof Dakin said, “It would be hard to overestimate the value of good visual correction for children in terms of fulfilling their lifelong potential. Children need to be able to see well to be able to learn.

“We are fundraising to try and purchase New Zealand's first mobile optometry unit and actually travel within and outside of Auckland to deliver screening services and full comprehensive eye examinations to as many children as we can.”

When contacted by NZ Optics, Prof Dakin said the university’s scheme is ‘a similar idea’ to the work being done by the Essilor Vision Foundation. It is fully independent of other special programmes for schools run by independent optometrists, which he said is important to avoid conflicts of interest. The scheme will create more work for optometrists rather than take it away, he stressed.

“We generate work by referring failing kids: they are given the choice to come to us at Grafton or to go local. Moving forward, any extra services we offer will target children who are less likely to attend their optometrist. The net result of our activities should be positive with regard to local business.”

The proposed ‘vision bus’ could potentially triple the reach of the current screening programme, he said.

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