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New vision screening program offers free tests for schools

A new vision screening program between Deakin University’s School of medicine (optometry program) and charity Essilor Vision Foundation was launched in Victoria last month.

The initiative, based in and around Geelong, will see Deakin optometry students and academic staff undertake an ongoing screening program aimed at identifying primary school children with vision problems. Any identified children will then be referred to local optometrists for comprehensive eye exams.

"The university has been a joy to work with and it is very exciting to be on the eve of our first screening in the state,"
Mr Greg Johnson, Essilor Vision Foundation CEO

The foundation has confirmed they will also, where applicable, provide prescription spectacles at no cost.

Geelong is the latest area to be targeted since the foundation began operating in January 2016. During that time children at 20 schools, mostly in South Australia and Queensland, have been screened.

Essilor Vision Foundation CEO Mr Greg Johnson said they had been consulting with Deakin for some time to develop a program that would provide the highest likelihood of identifying children in need of assistance.

“The university has been a joy to work with and it is very exciting to be on the eve of our first screening in the state,” he said, adding: “Results elsewhere have been consistent, with an average of 40% of children being referred for more comprehensive examination, with around one-third of these requiring free prescription spectacles.”

The head of Deakin Optometry’s Clinical Skills program, Dr Geoff Sampson said it was an exciting development in the evolution of the optometry program.

“It gives students invaluable hands-on experience in working with children, particularly those in early primary school. We are so confident about the ongoing nature of the relationship with Essilor Vision Foundation, that we have incorporated these jointly administered screenings into the course curriculum, which we understand is an Australian first,” Sampson said.

The first children to be screened were from South Geelong Primary, while the other schools on the initial list are Ashby Primary, Oberon South Primary, Geelong East Primary, Tate Street Primary, Belmont Primary and Whittington Primary.

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