Better Vision for the Keiki
Project Vision Hawai`i’s "Better Vision for the Keiki" program aims to provide opportunities for better vision to Hawai`i’s children. The program offers vision and school readiness screenings to children of all ages, statewide, with a priority placed on those with the highest need.
1.5 million children nationwide lack the glasses they need to thrive academically, athletically and socially. More than 12,000 of those keiki live in low-income communities where a good education may be their best opportunity to escape poverty. 80-percent of learning in early grades is visual; however, studies indicate that 95-percent of incoming first graders who need eyeglasses do not have them. In Hawai`i, the problem is often access.
Students with uncorrected vision problems often avoid reading, suffer headaches, and have trouble focusing on class discussions. These symptoms make affected children less likely to reach the important educational milestone of reading proficiency by the end of third grade, which makes them more likely to fall behind and drop out of school. The problem is particularly prevalent in low-income areas of Hawai`i Island and our smaller islands.
Project Vision Hawai`i works collaboratively with partner organizations, the Department of Education and the Department of Health to screen more than 5,000 keiki across the state each year, providing glasses for keiki who attend select Title I schools (schools with 65-percent or more of the population receiving free or reduced lunch). Working with its scientific advisory board, PVH uses a variety of screening methods that best fit the age of the keiki being screened. Vision screening has consistently proven to advance academic performance in children and ultimately improve the trajectory of a child’s life.
Better Vision for a Better Life
Project Vision Hawai`i’s “Better Vision for a Better Life” program aims to provide opportunities for better vision to homeless, houseless, those in work-furlough programs, and very low-income individuals. The program provides comprehensive eye screening and prescription glasses for the uninsured and underinsured.
Hawai`i’s homeless and houseless population is growing. Project Vision Hawai`i serves this population with screenings and has found that many of these people are underinsured, uninsured, or not receiving health care. The screenings identified a need for free prescription glasses. Vision provides the opportunity for a better life for these people. PVH has provided prescription glasses to people who have been able to return to work and fill out housing paper work for the first time.
To accomplish these screenings, Project Vision Hawai`i travels with its mobile screening units to places where homeless or underserved populations frequent, including shelters and food banks. A board-certified ophthalmologist or optometrist is on hand to provide vision examinations with immediate feedback and can write prescriptions as needed. Patients may then take the prescription and have it filled, for free, at the LensCrafters® location nearest to them or through other services coordinated by PVH. Mobile eye screenings, such as those provided by the Project Vision van, have an enormous potential for improving health care in homeless populations.
In addition to providing screening services to the uninsured, Project Vision Hawai`i works to get individuals enrolled in health insurance for continued health care that spans beyond vision. Project Vision Hawai`i expects to serve at least 1,000 homeless individuals per year.
WE…a hui for health
Project Vision Hawai`i’s “WE…a hui for health” program aims to provide opportunities for better vision and general health for rural Hawai`i. The statewide program is a collaboration of community organizations to provide health promotion opportunities, and is coordinated by PVHʻs community outreach staff.
Community partner organizations offer wellness screenings or education at these collaborative events that can range from diabetes, women’s and heart health to lomi lomi (massage) and la`au lap`au (native Hawaiian medicine).
For many people living in rural areas of Hawai`i, there is a lack of knowledge about the importance of healthcare, as well as availability of services including affordable or free health insurance.
Cultural beliefs and norms can also present barriers for communities to access healthcare.
WE…a hui for health focuses on providing services to areas with access to health care challenges. These challenges are geographical, financial, educational, and cultural. Project Vision Hawai`i’s team and partners understand this and operate from a culturally sensitive position of education to encourage a shift in cultural norms.
For example, WE…a hui for health travels as a group to both Molokai`i and Lāna`i, where there are no living and working ophthalmologists on-island. While eye doctors occasionally travel to these islands, most residents need to travel to neighbor islands to receive care. This is often logistically and financially impossible.
Coordination for WE…a hui for health includes a monthly calendar that is distributed to an open list of community partners that outlines our community events statewide. Project Vision Hawai`i will serve at least 10,000 people per year through this program.
Community Health Action Plan Against Diabetes
Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in Hawai`i, but studies have always shown that 90-percent of blindness caused by diabetes is preventable with treatment and follow up.
Project Vision Hawai`i has started a program working with community health centers and hospitals to screen people living with diabetes, many of whom are uninsured. The health centers identify patients living with diabetes who are not receiving vision care and schedule appointments on screenings days with Project Vision Hawai`i. Health centers and case workers use the results to arrange appropriate follow up care. The goal of this program is to prevent and maintain vision for people living with diabetes.