October 25, 2016
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School Based Eye Care Outreach Program Begins In Chicago

 CHICAGO -- The Illinois Eye Institute (IEI) will provide vital vision care for as many as 10,000 underserved Chicago Public School students each school year at its new eye clinic at Princeton Elementary School on the South Side. The clinic will focus on underserved students who lack access to eye care.

The IEI clinic at CPS is part of Chicago Vision Outreach, a community-based program and the first known model to deliver eye care services year round within a school system.  

"The Illinois Eye Institute has served tens of thousands of children and this program continues our tradition as a community safety net for the underserved by filling a crucial need," said Sandra Block, OD, MEd, the Illinois College of Optometry professor who is directing the IEI clinic at CPS.  "This new clinic marks an important step in bringing care closer to school-age children, some of whom haven't even received the eye exam required to start school."

The clinic launched January 5, 2011 and serves about 30 patients each day, which will increase to about 100 per day in the coming weeks.  For two years the program will be funded by a combination of private grants and state insurance reimbursement.

The clinic, which will be led by Illinois College of Optometry faculty and students, will focus on vision problems that are prevalent in children. For example, myopia, or nearsightedness, is found in 2 percent of students entering first grade and 15 percent of students entering high school, according to the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. ForChicago Public Schools, this represents 4,800 students grade 1 through 8 and 17,250 high school students who may not be able to see the board at the front of the class without corrected vision.  

The NEI also states that blindness and visual impairment are found among 3.4 percent of children ages 17 and under from low-income families, in contrast to a 2 percent rate among students from high- and middle-income families.

"At Chicago Public Schools, we're thrilled to be able to improve delivery of eye care for our students," said Tariq Butt, M.D., a family physician and member of the Chicago Board of Education. "This program serves as an illustration of a partnership that can vastly improve the quality of education for the students who can see better as a result of improved care."

At the clinic, patients will be treated on site throughout the school year, and will be able to access care and proper follow up.  Chicago Public Schools staff will coordinate visits.  The centralized location for services and streamlined process will result in access to examinations and eyeglasses for CPS students.

The clinic will provide comprehensive eye exams to students who have failed the in-school screening or who have been identified as having potential vision problems.  The clinic will also provide eye care to children referred because of teacher concerns and those who need an exam as a requirement of the process for assessing specialized services.  In addition, the clinic will provide exams to students entering school for the first time, including kindergartners or first-graders who have not had an eye exam.  More than 27,000 students began school without documentation that they have had the required eye exam.

The Chicago Vision Outreach program has received $350,000 in funding from the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust, Alcon and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois.  In addition to grant funding, Keeler Instruments and Star Ophthalmic Instruments made substantial equipment donations. 

The Chicago Vision Outreach program also operates at Federally Qualified Health Centers, and kicked off at Alivio Medical Center in September 2010.

About the Illinois Eye Institute

Illinois Eye Institute (IEI) is the clinical division of the Illinois College of Optometry. IEI is a nonprofit, multi-specialty eye center that provides comprehensive eye care to individuals of all ages from the Chicago area and beyond, regardless of their financial status. It is designed and staffed to meet general ocular health and visual needs and provide highly specialized optical services. The IEI has over 90,000 visits annually from a largely low-income, medically underserved patient population and provides charitable services and outreach programs through its foundation to assist people in need.


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