Home Society & Culture Villa Vision Improves Eye Health for 6,000 Children Across Birmingham

Villa Vision Improves Eye Health for 6,000 Children Across Birmingham

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Even mild to moderate vision loss can significantly impact a child’s behaviour, welfare, and learning outcomes, sometimes leading to a life of missed potential.

The Aston Villa Foundation, working with Aston University, is tackling this problem head-on through Villa Vision. Funded by the University, Premier League, Professional Footballers Association, and EssilorLuxottica’s charitable foundation, OneSight, Villa Vision aims to raise awareness of the importance of eye health for both children and adults in Birmingham’s local communities.

The initiative, the first of its kind in the UK, offers workshops, vision screenings, and comprehensive eye testing through its fully equipped mobile eye care unit. This service is delivered in primary and secondary schools across Birmingham.

Children are first introduced to the programme through an eye health awareness workshop in their classroom, using VR headsets, 3D glasses, and eye models to illustrate the importance of eye care. Screenings for vision and color vision follow this.

Villa Vision utilises Thomson Screening’s SchoolScreener software for these screenings, making the process efficient and engaging for children. To date, over 6,000 children have been screened using this software.

Research indicates that children with undiagnosed vision loss, however mild, can be at a severe disadvantage in school. Much of teaching relies on visual aids, and if a child cannot see properly, they cannot engage in class. This can also impact their social interactions, as children who cannot see well may struggle to participate in activities or pick up on visual cues from friends, leading to feelings of exclusion. Ultimately, this can negatively affect their learning outcomes and social development, with long-term consequences into adulthood.

Villa Vision’s goal is to mitigate these impacts by ensuring each child has access to a vision test and, if a problem is detected, the necessary follow-up care. SchoolScreener has helped identify children with potential visual concerns, allowing Villa Vision to support these children with full eye examinations and provide glasses when needed.

Nikhil Sonpal, optometrist and project manager for Villa Vision, said: “It’s so exciting to see the children when they put on a pair of glasses for the first time and suddenly see the world more clearly. By using the SchoolScreener software, we have reached over 6,000 children within local primary and secondary schools across Birmingham. I feel very proud of that achievement and hope we will be celebrating another 6,000 soon.”

One of the children flagged for further investigation was Cole. He shared his experience, saying, “When I came into the room, I thought, ‘Wow, what are those glasses?’ When I sat in the chair, I was excited because I would get to put on some cool glasses!” After the vision screening, which took only about three minutes, Cole felt “a bit excited.”

Following his initial screening, Cole had a comprehensive eye examination in Villa Vision’s mobile unit and received two free pairs of glasses. Reflecting on the impact, Cole said: “In the classroom, the glasses have helped my teacher, as they don’t need to bring the flipchart closer for me and they also help me with seeing the whiteboard. They made me feel that, actually, I am not invisible.”

Since its inception in 2020, Villa Vision has reached several milestones, including nearly 15,000 individual interventions and over 400 pairs of free glasses prescribed to more than 200 children, significantly impacting their education and learning.

“SchoolScreener has made a tangible impact on the goals of Villa Vision. It is efficient and versatile, making vision and colour vision screening more accessible to targeted children. The software allows us to provide parents with a bespoke report outlining the results of the check,” said Sonpal.

“Involving the parents is so important, and being able to give them a report is a great way to start the process – they can see the results for themselves. For many parents, they simply had no idea their child’s vision wasn’t 20/20.

“Helping these children, and by extension, their families, still gives the Villa Vision team that goosebumps feeling of having made a real difference to someone’s life and future.”

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