Data Science

New data could help lower barriers to eye care for senior kindergartners in Waterloo region

A new partnership in Waterloo region wants to identify the barriers preventing senior kindergartners from accessing proper eye care.

The School of Optometry & Vision Science at the University of Waterloo is leading the work with help from the Cowan Foundation, the Lions Club of Canada and Region of Waterloo Public Health.

A team of researchers are screening for eye problems in more than 6,000 senior kindergartners at 150 schools across Waterloo region, with the intention of collecting data about how parents follow up on the results.

After each child’s screening, parents will be asked to take their child to an optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam.
Researchers will note how many parents will follow through — and how many won’t because of potential barriers.

Tracey Hagen, a special education consultant for Waterloo Region District School Board, said collecting the data will help make sure more children receive the eye care they need in order to be set up for success.

One of the research teams is being led by Lisa Christian, the associate clinical professor and associate director of the University of Waterloo’s Clinical Programs in the School of Optometry & Vision Science, shown here with a senior kindergartner at Empire Public School in Waterloo. (Aastha Shetty/CBC)

An opportunity to educate

“So what would happen if there were some concerns present in the SK [senior kindergarten] screening, and then what would the follow-up be? How would we ever know that a family was able to follow up? If not, what are those barriers to families and how can we help support that?”

Researchers are hoping to answer those questions by looking at the data collected through this project. One of the teams is being led by Lisa Christian, the associate clinical professor and associate director of the University of Waterloo’s clinical programs in the School of Optometry & Vision Science.

She said the project gives them an opportunity to educate parents and teachers about the important connection between vision and learning.

“The advantage of coming to a school is that we’re able to see a majority of SK kids in Waterloo region,” she said, adding that the screening does not replace a full eye exam.

“We’re looking for common eye conditions such as amblyopia, where one eye sees better than the other, depth perception, or if the child needs glasses to see,” she said. “The screening is looking to see if any of these conditions may exist, and if they do, hopefully it encourages a parent to bring their child to an optometrist sooner rather than later.”

According to the University of Waterloo, approximately 20 per cent of children aged three to six years old in Canada have visual problems that need to be addressed.

The university said in a press release that after all senior kindergartners are given eye screenings in Waterloo region, the next step will be to ultimately expand the project in regions across Canada.

“So what would happen if there were some concerns present in the SK [senior kindergarten] screening, and then what would the follow-up be? How would we ever know that a family was able to follow up? If not, what are those barriers to families and how can we help support that?”

Source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/eye-screening-waterloo-senior-kindergarten-kg-1.6662144

Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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