Image: Artist’s impression of the NZ Vision Bus proposed by the School of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of Auckland
Currently, NZ children receive eye testing at the beginning of their scholastic life (the B4 school check) and again at Year 7, and it might be assumed that these checks would pick up most significant issues.
However as part of the University’s school screening programme, BOptom students carry out basic vision tests on approximately 10,000 school children per year in Auckland schools and the results have been surprising: 20% of children tested under this programme have failed simple eye tests. Further, figures show only half of these children will go on to receive a full eye test with an optometrist and get glasses. In other words, one in 10 school children who need glasses are going without.
Identifying vision issues and providing accessible ways for children to receive full testing and appropriate glasses as soon as possible is vital in terms of removing obstacles to educational achievement. On 6 June, TVNZ news interviewed staff and students from the School of Optometry and Vision Science about this issue and the need for school children to have regular eye tests in New Zealand.
In addition to the ongoing school screening programme, the school has begun a major new initiative to alleviate the need: SOVS proposes to purchase and build a NZ Vision Bus, which will provide full eye testing on site for children throughout New Zealand. It is estimated this mobile service will substantially improve on the current programme, reaching children in both city and rural areas who need glasses. Professor Steven Dakin stated “It would be hard to overestimate the value of good visual correction for children, in terms of fulfilling their lifelong potential.”
A fundraising page has been set up to receive donations towards the NZ Vision Bus.