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National Eye Institute awards vision grant to Tyrone Hospital

Tyrone Hospital received a $10,000 vision grant from the National Institute of Health’s, National Eye Institute (NEI). The grant is being used to conduct vision screenings for pre-school age children in the Tyrone area.
The National Eye Institute made resources available to help communities achieve the goals outlined in Healthy People 2010. Healthy People 2010 is a collection of national health goals which includes vision health goals, among them a goal to increase the number of pre-school age children who receive a vision screening. Pennsylvania’s State Health Improvement Plan which is developed based on the Healthy People 2010 also addresses the need for vision screenings in young children.
According to the National Eye Institute, children 5 years and younger can be affected by eye and vision problems. Visual impairment caused by refractive errors (farsightedness or nearsightedness), amblyopia (lazy eye), and/or strabismus (crossed eyes) are common conditions among young children, affecting up to 20 percent of all preschoolers. However, studies have found that less than 22 percent of preschool children are screened for vision problems.
Theresa Yanchetz, Director of Marketing & Volunteer Services at Tyrone Hospital said it is truly an honor for Tyrone to be selected by the NEI as a grant recipient.“We saw an opportunity to bring resources into our community to address children’s health so we applied for the grant. We are pleased to have an opportunity to partner with other community organizations to provide vision screenings for more children in our community and increase community awareness of this important health issue.”
The vision screenings provided to date in Tyrone were for students in the Pre-K Counts program at Tyrone Elementary School. Several local organizations collaborated to provide the screenings including Tyrone Hospital, Tyrone Elementary School, Tyrone Medical Associates, Heimer Eye Care Associates, and the students in the Health Occupations Technology Program at Tyrone High School. Ms. Yanchetz said the hospital is currently working on plans to conduct additional screenings.
Dr. Jill Finke, optometrist at Heimer Eye Care Associates, said early vision screenings for children are helpful because they can identify children at risk for vision problems.“Most eye problems in children can be corrected if they are detected and treated early,” said Dr. Finke.
Linda Branstetter, Family/School Resource Consultant at Tyrone Elementary School said the school set aside one entire day to conduct the screening. Six percent of the children that participated in the screening were referred for follow-up with a physician.
“Young children learn using all of their senses, said, Brenda Cowger, RN, school nurse at Tyrone Elementary School “If there is a vision problem, it can hinder a child’s their ability to learn. Vision screenings help catch those problems early.”
Ms. Yanchetz recognized a variety of organizations that submitted letters of support and/or information for the hospital’s grant application including the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, Tyrone Elementary School, Child Advocates of Blair County, Tyrone Area Chamber of Commerce, Tyrone Rotary Club, Lions Sight Conservation Foundation of Blair County, the Daily Herald, and Heimer Eye Care Associates.
In addition to vision screenings, the grant project includes dissemination of information about children’s vision health issues. This will be accomplished primarily through a series of news articles that will be issued through the cooperative efforts of Heimer eye Care Associates, Tyrone Hospital, and the Daily Herald.