Eye specialist speaks on importance of Lions Club initiative

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With the focus being on children’s health on an international scale, Dr. Byron Andrew has spoken out on the importance of an initiative by a local non-profit community service organization, the Antigua Lions Club, in providing free weekly eye screenings for primary school children.

The Lions Club has partnered with several local optometrists and ophthalmologists on the island who represent Progressive Vision, Courts Optical and other eye care businesses, and give of their time to conduct the exams at a different learning institution every Wednesday.

Dr. Andrew, who is the proprietor of Eye Mobile Vision Care and is also a part of the program, told OBSERVER media about the impact the initiative has on the youth.

“We have been partnering with the Lions Club for … the last four, five years and it’s a very important exercise because one of the things I always say to people is children cannot learn what they can’t see.  A lot of times they don’t know that they’re struggling because they think that’s their reality, so a lot of times we go through this process and I would probably say, statistics wise, about one of every four

persons would have some kind of issue in terms of vision.

“I think this is a very important role by the Lion’s Club as it is beneficial for the country in the long run,” he said.

Dr. Andrew revealed that beyond the screening, his office conducts follow up exams with some of the children.

“At our office we make an initiative where every patient we see that has an issue, we give them almost 50 percent discount on our services, whether it’s a follow up eye examination, and we’ll have special frames that are for kids that were put aside. Taking 50 percent off, again we realize that not everybody may have all the money, so it’s a part of us giving back to society.”

The program focuses on children in grades one and six only and requires parental consent. But according to Lion’s Club health committee chairperson, Virgil Daniel, the consent forms are not being returned.

“We cannot check any of the children’s eyes without getting permission from their parents. Unfortunately, a significant percent of the students do not return with the signed forms. I don’t know if it’s because the parents don’t take the time out to fill the forms or it’s that the children will be children and lose them or don’t carry them home, so we end up not screening all of the children.”

Daniel further explained why the venture only focuses on first and sixth graders.

“We focus on the first and sixth grade only because at the first grade the children are just beginning their school life, and at sixth because we try to test them before they go on to secondary school.”

This week’s free eye screening will take place at the Parham Primary School on Wednesday.  

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