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University of Iowa News Release


May 18, 2010

Iowa KidSight marks 10-year anniversary of saving vision

Thousands of infants and preschoolers in Iowa have received the eye care they need, thanks to Iowa KidSight, a joint project of Lions Clubs of Iowa and the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at University of Iowa Children's Hospital. The program celebrates its 10th anniversary on May 20.

Since its inception, Iowa KidSight has provided 171,433 free screenings for children ages 6 months to 6 years. The assessments check for eye problems related to misaligned eyes, cataracts and problems that can be corrected with eyeglasses.

Of all the children screened in the past decade, 7,436 have been given referrals to see an eye care professional, said Lori Short, program director for Iowa KidSight.

"Through follow-up efforts, we know nearly 5,600 children who were referred to an eye care professional actually were seen by an expert, and of those, 4,340 children needed immediate treatment," Short said.

Short said that parents sometimes do not realize that children need to have their vision checked well before they start kindergarten.

"The earlier vision problems are caught, the better the outcomes," Short said. "By around the age of 10, a child's vision has fully developed, and if problems aren't treated before then, there is a risk of losing vision."

The screening is quick and easy -- it takes less than 10 minutes -- and does not require a child's eyes to be dilated. The screening involves taking a photo of each child's eyes. The image is then analyzed by eye experts at UI Children's Hospital.

Children who are referred for treatment may receive glasses or an eye patch for muscle problems. The patch covers the unaffected eye so that the weaker eye essentially gets the exercise it needs to align properly.

Short said it costs the program less than $9 to assess each child, with no assessment costs passed on to families. This is due to the Lions Clubs volunteers, who have adopted Iowa KidSight as an ongoing community service project. The Lions Clubs volunteers have help set up 11,300 assessment sessions since 2000 throughout Iowa.

"For its size and scope, the program operates on an incredibly small budget," Short said. "We estimate that the 500 Lions volunteers who help with the program provide about 14,000 hours of help each year."

To learn more about Iowa KidSight or to find out if there is a free screening in your area, call 319-353-7616 or visit and click on "Iowa KidSight."

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Care Media Relations, 200 Hawkins Drive, W319 GH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009

MEDIA CONTACT: Becky Soglin, 319-356-7127,