Preserve Vision Florida was established in 1957. The nonprofit’s focus is promoting a lifetime of healthy vision care through advocacy, education, screenings and research. It does this by offering vision education and services to Florida’s children and adults.
According to Jennifer Whittington, vice president of programs and COO, “We primarily screen children’s vision with the idea that if a child cannot see, they cannot read (and learn). Studies show that one in 20 preschool-age children have a vision concern. That ratio rises to one in four children with a vision concern at the elementary school level. If a child cannot see, then they cannot read. Therefore, our mission is to identify and assist getting glasses on children that are in need.”
Whittington added, “We also are funded to educate and assist some of the parents and caregivers of those children. In this way, we help parents become more independent, retain employment and ultimately model the behavior of wearing corrective lenses that children need to mirror. If mom or dad or grandma wear their glasses, it must be important.”
Preserve Vision Florida is funded through the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County and United Way Suncoast. Preserve Vision Florida conducts vision screenings at many of the preschools and day care centers around the county. It also offers monthly screenings at each of the seven Children’s Board Family Resource Centers. There are centers located in Brandon, Plant City and Ruskin. You can visit www.pvfla.org/events to see the schedule of screenings.
Whittington said, “We use some of the most updated screening methodology to screen for things like amblyopia (also known as lazy eye), strabismus (when the eyes are not working together), refractive errors like myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness). We also screen for color vision deficiency (what used to be referred to as color blindness.) Although there is no cure for color deficiency, there are accommodations that can be made for a child in school once they are identified.”
When children are referred for a follow-up, Preserve Vision Florida continues to follow up with them. If a child does not have insurance or Medicaid, they have a program that offers free exams and glasses.
Whittington said, “If you have a child in preschool, ask your director if they will arrange for vision screenings at their center with Preserve Vision Florida. If not, share our information. We would love to add your school.”