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Minneapolis E.Y.E. Program Removes Major Roadblock to Early Learning

25% of school-age kids have vision problems bad enough to affect their performance.

Since it started, the E.Y.E. Program has arranged more than 1,400 successful eye care appointments, diagnostic procedures and surgeries.

Since 80% of early childhood learning happens visually, it is enormously important that kids are able to see properly.  Sometimes, children don't realize they aren't seeing correctly, so they don't ask for help.  That's significant because it's estimated that 25% of school-age kids have vision problems bad enough to affect their performance.  

Phillips Eye Institute, part of Allina Health, started Early Youth Eyecare (E.Y.E.) in 2008, after budget cuts forced the elimination of vision screenings in Minneapolis public schools.  E.Y.E.'s primary goal is to remove vision problems as a major roadblock to learning by providing regular vision screenings, follow-ups and treatments to Minneapolis Public School children in kindergarten, first, third, fifth and sixth grades.

The Minnesota Department of Health says poor vision can contribute to the beginning of learning problems that can actually be prevented or improved if they're identified and treated. 

About 90% of children who need glasses don't have them, so E.Y.E. is especially diligent in its follow-ups.  Before E.Y.E., only 27% of students who failed vision screenings received follow-up care - even when the follow-up services were free.  Now, 70% of students referred by E.Y.E. receive further vision care, which can be attributed to extensive follow-up with families. The E.Y.E. Program promotes access to vision care by coordinating and funding transportation services (many times a major barrier to underserved families getting the care they need), interpreter services and all medically necessary vision services (e.g., eyeglasses, surgery, medications) on a child's behalf. Referrals are made to a network of participating E.Y.E. Providers (ophthalmologists and optometrists), including those that offer evening and weekend appointments. E.Y.E. Providers themselves contact parents/guardians to arrange appointments, rather than relying on the parents/guardians to contact them.

Since it started, the E.Y.E. Program has arranged more than 1,400 successful eye care appointments, diagnostic procedures and surgeries.  In addition, the program partners with Portico Healthnet, which helps enroll qualified children and adults into affordable health insurance programs, to help cover both vision and other healthcare needs.

The E.Y.E. Program is a 2013 Finalist for the Hospital Charitable Services Awards.