By Tamara Petrosyan, OD, assistant clinical professor at State University of New York, College of Optometry
In the 10 years since the no-cost InfantSEE® public health program was launched by the American Optometric Association (AOA), in partnership with the Vision Care Institute of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, it has generated data that provides a much clearer image of children’s visual development. Before 2005, when the program was introduced, it was thought that one-in-30 infants (0-12 months old) had a positive risk factor that required careful follow up or treatment for an eye or visual condition. Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ran an analysis of the patients seen under the InfantSEE program in 2006. Of the 1,051 children seen, one-in-eight had a positive ocular or visual risk factor that required careful follow-up or required treatment. If the child was premature, a minority or in a family where income was below $41,648, the risk went up to one-in-four.
Visual development is dramatic between 6 and 12 months of age and is critical for a child’s normal overall development. Although most babies will develop normally if left alone, early detection and treatment of potential eye and vision problems can be key in setting the baby on the right track for development further in life. If left undetected and untreated, conditions like amblyopia, strabismus, anisometropia, high refractive error and ocular disease can lead to difficulties in development, school and social interaction and potentially to permanent vision loss. Eye assessments for children are recommended at this early age to allow proper time to detect and treat developing vision problems.
When doctors sign up for the InfantSEE program, they agree to see all infants that present to their office for one initial comprehensive evaluation at no charge, regardless if the InfantSEE program is mentioned. The doctor controls when the patient is seen and how many InfantSEE patients are scheduled per week. Any follow-up evaluation or treatment that is required after the initial evaluation is to be covered by the patient.
The InfantSEE website offers providers resources such as clinical reporting, history and assessment forms, a guideline for infant developmental norms and findings that are of concern and a video of an InfantSEE exam being performed. The website also provides various downloadable resources including brochures, sample letters to parents and other health care providers, continuing education opportunities and discounted infant examination materials.
Providers who contracted prior to April 1, 2015, are required to renew their contract on the website to continue to provide services through the InfantSEE program. For more information, to renew a contract or to sign up to be an InfantSEE provider, visit infantsee.org or call 888-396-3937.