Our Children’s Vision is a new initiative spearheaded by Brien Holden Vision Institute. I had the pleasure of representing VOSH at the American Partner’s Forum for Our Children’s Vision during the Vision Expo West meeting. The purpose of this meeting was to bring VOSH, Essilor Vision Foundation, Vision Impact Institute, Eyelliance, VSP, Optometry Giving Sight, World Council of Optometry, Charity Vision, Special Olympics and others together to join forces and address the lack of eyecare for children in the United States.

An often quoted statistic is that 80 percent of learning takes place through our eyes. So it makes sense that a comprehensive eye exam is the best way to ensure that a child can see clearly at distance and near out of each eye, has eyes that come together into one clear image in the brain, and are healthy. I’ve been a licensed optometrist for 24 years now, and have worked locally to educate my patient’s parents, teachers and school nurses, and pediatricians on why it’s important for children having a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist prior to starting kindergarten. I know this has made a small difference in my community, but it’s obvious that locally and as a nation, we can do better.

The purpose of the American Partner’s Forum was to bring various different players in the eye care world together.  As discussed, “Our Children’s Vision needs local, national and global partners to help screen more children, in more regions, establish stronger referral pathways, ensure comprehensive treatment, and impact sustainable change in eye care provision.” As President of VOSH, I’m proud that we’re a team player of this united approach and look forward to our organization helping improve the lives of children.

Updated COVID-19 and VOSH Humanitarian Clinics Advice

Due to an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 infections, a new variant that is more contagious, and these being early days in the vaccination distribution, VOSH/International DOES NOT recommend that chapters participate in domestic or international eye and vision clinics at this time.

We reiterate that at a time when the coronavirus continues to spread quickly in many parts of the world and vaccinations are not yet available to local populations, the risk of close contact with patients in a crowded outpatient environment remains high.

If a VOSH Chapter or VOSH volunteer chooses to hold a clinic against our best guidance, this is done at your own risk, by your own decision and should be in line with current local/national government rules.  VOSH/International would like to reiterate that safety for VOSH volunteers and our patients is of utmost importance and central to any decision-making process.

We have published our updated clinic guidelines with best practices to be observed in this new context.  You can download VOSH/International clinic guidelines here

Also please keep checking the following sites with official and most recent updates:

World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

US CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/when-to-delay-travel.html

US Government Travel Advise: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/COVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html

Thank you for your patience in these unprecedented times, hard work and dedication to improving vision and eye health throughout the world.

John Daniel Twelker, OD, PhD, FAAO, FVI

President, VOSH/International

January 2021