The new school year is right around the corner. It’s usually around this time of year when parents schedule end-of-the-summer doctor appointments, which usually includes eye exams. Although the in-person back-to-school outlook remains uncertain, keeping current with children’s eye exams is still important. This is apt since August is designated as Children’s Health and Eye Safety Month.

Vision plays a critical role in children’s physical, cognitive and social development, according to the latest Children’s Vision Report from Prevent Blindness. Globally, at least 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment or blindness, of whom at least 1 billion have a vision impairment that could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed, according to the World Health Report.

Up to one in 17 young children and one in five pre-school age children enrolled in Head Start has an undiagnosed vision disorder. Furthermore, about one in four children have a vision impairment that requires treatment. Without early detection and treatment, uncorrected vision disorders can impair child development, interfere with learning, and even lead to permanent vision loss.

According to the report, certain racial and ethnic groups face increasing challenges to health and well-being, especially eye health, due to socioeconomic and racial inequalities in health care.

The National Survey of Children’s Health, which examined social determinants of health and their association with vision testing for children 17 years old and younger, found that non-Hispanic children whose primary language at home was not English had the lowest percentage of vision testing as compared to children in homes where English or Spanish were spoken. The survey also found that children in families with greater household income are more likely to have received vision testing.

Prevent Blindness believes improving access to vision screening, eyecare, and treatment by creating vision information materials for parents and caregivers in multiple languages, and developing community and statewide children’s vision initiatives that involve parents and caregivers in vision teams could ensure a strong vision and eye health system for children.