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Every year in Ontario:

  • 5000 children needlessly lose the use of an eye because they were not treated promptly for a problem.
  • 10,000 children have trouble learning to read just because they need glasses.

Why is this?

  • The most common problems are hard to spot without formal tests.
  • Family doctors and paediatricians have neither the knowledge nor the equipment to examine eyes.
  • Most parents do not realize how vital early eye checks are.
  • Most parents do not know that OHIP covers eye exams for children.
  • Many parents think glasses are too expensive.
  • Some parents perceive wearing glasses to be stigmatizing.
  • Some parents believe that glasses weaken eyes.

How can we change this?

Before Grade 1 every child's eyes need to be checked and treated if necessary. But this is easier said than done. Ontario is vast and every year 100,000 children enter school.

We are researchers at McMaster and SickKids who are working on ways to do this efficiently. We are comparing quick eye tests to see which are the most useful, and we are working with 15 communities across the province to see how vision testing can be done at school with minimal disruption of routines.

Our programme:

  1. During junior and senior kindergarten, every child takes some quick vision tests at school. These tests identify children who may have eye problems.
  2. Each child who may have an eye problem sees an eye doctor (an optometrist) at school, at a time that is convenient for a parent or representative to attend.
  3. Every child who is prescribed glasses receives them at school.

All of this is free. For this project the quick tests are done by volunteers or are paid for by federal research grants from CIHR and NSERC , optometrists are paid by OHIP , and glasses are donated. In addition, seed money came from The Foundation Fighting Blindness and donations in kind come from our partners:

Toronto District School Board , Toronto Foundation for Student Success , Toronto Central LHIN , District A15 Lions Club , University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision Science , Oxford County Public Health , Timiskaming Public Health , Centre for Excellence in Economical Analysis , Applied Health Research Centre of St. Michael's Hospital , Ontario Association of Optometrists , University of Ottawa medical students (iScreen) , Lambton Public Health .

Can the government afford to implement this programme province-wide?

Part of our research involves an economic analysis. We do not know yet what we shall find but once all costs are counted we expect to see overall savings compared to the status quo. For example:

  • A child who cannot see well starts off handicapped in school. Children doing badly in school tend to become behaviour problems. We suspect that forestalling the policing, legal and societal costs of dealing with even one juvenile delinquent would exceed the costs of giving glasses to every child who needs them in a school.
  • Losing the use of an eye increases the risk of falls and other accidents. We expect that childhood interventions to retain the use of an eye will prove cheaper than repairs later in life to broken ankles, legs and hips.

Who are we?

  • Daphne Maurer , PhD, FRCS, Distinguished University Professor, McMaster University
  • Agnes Wong , MD, PhD, FRCSC, Ophthalmologist, The Hospital for Sick Children

Neither of us receives any remuneration for this project or stands to benefit from it financially in any other way.


2015-16 (500kB PDF)

Overview    Parents     Locations     Screeners     Optometrists     Coordinators

Central coordinator: Sally Stafford
Telephones: (1) 844 834 0936 (toll-free)
(1) 647 478 9834 (Toronto)