When faculty member Marion D’Lugoff received word earlier this year that the school had been awarded a grant to promote healthy vision in East Baltimore, she and other faculty members, including Sara Groves and Maureen Maguire, immediately began working with SON students on the new project. In May, which is Healthy Vision Month, the project received additional support from an unlikely source: the Baltimore Orioles.
The grant was awarded to the SON Wald Community Nursing Center by the National Institutes of Health National Eye Institute. The funds support a program called VisionTEST (Targeted Education, Screening, and Treat-ment) that aims to increase the availability of community vision screening, vision education, and follow-up eye care to underserved children and their families.
“Vision is so critical for children because it is closely tied to successful learning,” Ms. D’Lugoff explains. “If a child can’t see the book or the board, that’s an impediment to learning. If the parent can’t afford the eye glasses, that’s another barrier.”
Once those hurdles are crossed, however, there is yet another factor hindering healthy vision in children. After children are screened, vision problems are detected, and eye glasses provided, many children are reluctant to wear them. Ms. D’Lugoff had an idea to overcome this additional barrier, and it involved an unusual partnership. “I thought if we could show kids some of their heroes wearing glasses – some people they really look up to – then that might help them see it’s cool to wear glasses,” she explains. She started by approaching some local sports teams, and the Baltimore Orioles stepped up to the plate.
Four of the Orioles team players – Travis Driskill, Jason Johnson, Jorge Julio, and Brian Roberts – wear eye glasses or contact lenses. They agreed to wear glasses and pose for pictures one day before a game. Even the team mascot, the Orioles bird, joined in with a pair of bright orange glasses. Some players wore their own glasses; others had fun choosing from an array of frames on loan from the Wilmer Eye Institute.
According to Ms. D’Lugoff the next step will be for SON students to use one of the pictures to create a poster which will be distributed to local schools to help encourage children to wear their eye glasses. The poster will also be posted on the SON community health nursing Web page so that the idea can be shared nationwide.
“What’s nice about this grant and project,” says Ms. D’Lugoff, “is that it allows several of our community health and pediatric nursing students to do something special as part of their education and it allows us to broaden our reach to the community.”
Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) students, Shannon Micheel and Jennifer Klein worked on VisionTEST for their Health Promotion and Disease Prevention class. They arranged staff and student training in vision screening and developing community educational materials. Susan Shafer, another FNP student who just graduated, designed a program for preschoolers to increase their cooperation in vision screening efforts at Head Start Centers.