In its initial year of operation, New York’s first school-based vision center at PS 188 in Coney Island provided prescription eyeglasses to nearly half of the 314 children who received routine eye exams—with no out-of-pocket cost to their families.
“The vast majority of the students who needed glasses did not know they needed them,” says Larry K. McReynolds, executive director of the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone. “Providing eye exams and glasses can dramatically improve the learning experience for these students.”
“When children are not able to read the board or follow along in class, they are much more at risk of not being engaged in active learning,” says Isaac P. Dapkins, MD, chief medical officer of the Family Health Centers at NYU Langone. “These years—between prekindergarten and fifth grade—are critical years in childhood development, and missing out can have a lifelong impact.”
In collaboration with OneSight, a global nonprofit dedicated to removing barriers to vision care, the School Health Program—Family Health Centers at NYU Langone launched the vision center as part of the PS 188 school-based health center in June 2018. The vision care program complements the center’s pediatric primary care services with comprehensive eye examinations, glasses, and medical eye care for students. To date, the OneSight Vision Center, which is the first of its kind in New York state, has prescribed eyeglasses to more than 140 students.
About 84 percent of PS 188’s prekindergarten to grade 5 students are enrolled in the school-based health center, enabling them to receive healthcare services at no direct cost to the students or their families, according to Adrienne M. McMillan, MD, medical director of the School Health Program.
“The mission of the OneSight Vision Center is to improve access to high-quality vision services,” says Dr. McMillan. “Students do not have to leave school to have an eye exam, and families do not have to go anywhere else to shop or be fitted for glasses. The vision center provides both the exam and eyeglasses conveniently and at no direct cost.”
Optometrist Mary Botelho, OD, provides comprehensive vision care at the center, including the diagnosis and treatment of conditions like refractive error—such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism (blurry or double vision)—and amblyopia (lazy eye). She also prescribes eyeglasses and other visual aids.
“Children who need glasses can pick their own frames from among several samples on-site. The frame and lens are fabricated off-site and delivered to the center. The child is then scheduled for a follow-up appointment in one to two weeks for fitting. If adjustments are needed, we can do that at the center,” says Dr. Botelho. Those who require further testing and other treatment can be referred to NYU Langone Health’s vast network of specialists, including the NYU Langone Eye Center, which has locations in Brooklyn.
Vision services have recently expanded to nearby PS 329 and will expand to an additional group of identified schools in the Coney Island neighborhood in the coming year. The vision center at PS 188 was fully furnished and equipped by OneSight, and sponsored by LensCrafters, a retail brand of Luxotica. It was established in partnership with the United Federation of Teachers, as well as New York City’s Department of Education and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
“We hope the school-based vision center at PS 188 can be replicated across the city and state,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers. “By providing services to students at neighboring schools as well as those at PS 188, we are expanding access to high-quality vision care. We are only at the start of this journey, but we can already see the impact this work is having on children’s lives.”