Helping One School Child at a Time with See to Succeed
Imagine your child not being able to see the notes the teacher writes on the whiteboard in class or being able to read a book because the words are a blurry mess or not being able to join in a game because they can’t see clearly.
Vision problems are a reality for millions of children in the United States. Approximately 20% of America’s roughly 50 million elementary and secondary school students have untreated vision problems, according to University of California – Los Angeles health researchers. Of this group, about 80% of the issues could be corrected with proper optometric care. Add to that this fact – 80% of everything a child learns is through visual means. Eye care for children is clearly a critical issue.
The good news is early detection and proper eye care can go a long way to correct issues and reduce vision-related challenges in academic, social and other spheres of life.
This is where See To Succeed, a public-private partnership program, steps in and addresses unresolved vision, health and other needs. It provides free vision exams and quality corrective eyewear to underserved children ages 6-18 in school districts in the greater Houston and surrounding areas.
Pat Segu, founding medical director for the program and a clinical professor at the University of Houston, College of Optometry, recently kicked off the ninth year for this program. The spring 2020 dates for UHCO weeks were: Jan. 27-30, Feb. 11-13 and Feb. 24-27.
“Unlike a broken arm or a leg, eye problems may go undetected for several years,” Segu said. “This projects takes the “in” out of invisible and makes vision-related issues more visible.”
A study conducted by the Houston Independent School District showed significant improvements in the performance of students who participated in the STS program during the 2015-2016 school year. Here are some of the highlights:
- A whopping 80% of students who had previously failed math or reading passed.
- Another 53% of students identified with prior disciplinary problems experienced no further disciplinary issues.
- Attendance improved. About 53% of chronically absent students attended at least 90% of the remaining school year after getting glasses.
Since See To Succeed’s pilot in 2011, volunteers have examined 76,797 children and dispensed 70,640 pairs of glasses.
UHCO volunteers – fourth and second-year students, resident doctors, clinical fellows, clinical faculty, clinic staff and alumni – turn out in large numbers every year for See To Succeed. Every year, over multiple weeks, participating schools bus children to the UH Eye Center in the Heights and other locations for eye exams.
“Throughout the years, the program has expanded and developed to address the unmet visual needs of school-aged children. The program addresses all kinds of issues – from vision-related issues to issues like malnutrition and neglect,” Segu said. “See To Succeed is a safety net program for children who remain on the unresolved list by removing the barriers to care and delivering the care they so desperately need. We’re making a difference, and we’re giving each child a chance to not only succeed academically, but also in life.”
In the 2018-2019 school year, 548 Houston-area schools participated and 11,604 children were examined by 852 volunteers.
See to Succeed – spearheaded by the Houston Health Department of Health and Human Services and its nonprofit arm, the Houston Health Foundation – brings together several local organizations including the UH College of Optometry, San Jacinto College’s Eye Technology Program, Berkeley Eye Center, Essilor Vision Foundation and Prevent Blindness Texas.
Major corporate sponsors for the program include Walmart, Essilor Corp. and Alcon. Other supporters include the George Foundation, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Save the Children, BASF, and the Lions Club.
Here’s a link to a video about See To Succeed.