For many schoolchildren, teachers’ writing on a classroom smartboard is too blurry to read. Their vision problems can lead to poor grades and behavior problems. And if their family struggles financially, they may never see an optometrist to be fitted for prescription glasses.
Uncorrected vision problems are a daily reality and can lead to learning and behavioral challenges for an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Houston-area schoolchildren, according to the city’s Houston Health Department.
But a Health Department program is helping thousands connect with a clearer future.
“When a student fails the screening twice, there’s a need to correct the vision,” said Patricia Watson, program manager for the HHD’s See to Succeed program.
“When parents are not able to, for financial or other reasons, resolve this in their family, students are referred to programs such as ours or given vouchers to receive a comprehensive eye exam,” Watson said.
Launched in 2011, See to Succeed provides comprehensive eye exams and corrective eyewear to local students through yearly vision clinics. The clinics have served more than 47,000 Houston-areas students and given out more than 43,000 pairs of glasses, according to the Houston Health Foundation. See to Succeed is one of several health projects the foundation provides a funding stream to beyond the scope of HHD’s normal operations.
Watson said the program partners with school districts to identify students in need.
“We serve children ages 6 thru 18 from local communities, including Harris County and Fort Bend,” she said.
A recent See to Succeed vision clinic was made possible by Optometry Giving Sight, an organization devoted to mobilizing support for avoidable blindness and vision impairment worldwide. The organization donated $15,800 to support the week-long clinic in October at the city’s West End Health Center in the Heights.
“We are delighted to be entering into this partnership with the See to Succeed program, as it clearly has an excellent track record in providing eye care to children in the Houston area, and especially those that might otherwise fall through the cracks and not gain access to the vision care they need,” said Clive Miller, CEO of Optometry Giving Sight.
See to Succeed’s comprehensive eye exams include nine stations and can test for depth perception, visual acuity, eye function, color blindness and more. Program volunteers guide students throughout the process.
“We engage HHD staff, along with agencies including the University of Houston, Berkeley Eye Center, Essilor Vison Foundation, San Jacinto College, as well as Texas Women’s University and community volunteers that sign up,” Watson said.
Dr. Pat Segu, medical director for See to Succeed, said the program bridges the gap for children in underserved communities.
“This project is the safety net of our community,” Segu said.
To learn more about the See to Succeed program, log on to http://www.houstontx.gov/health/.