Free vision screens for 2024 Prep students under way in Queensland schools

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Prep vision screening nurse Nicola Thorpe (right), with Preppies Rosie (from left), Sophie and James at Rainworth State School in Brisbane.

Children's Health Queensland's annual free Prep vision screening program is under way for 2024, screening the state's youngest students.

Nurses have visited more than 1,382 schools across Queensland and screened more than 300,000 Prep students since the statewide program began in 2016. The program aims to detect early conditions such as amblyopia or ‘lazy eye', the leading cause of preventable blindness in Australian children.

The condition affects about two in every 100 children.

If left untreated, amblyopia and other visual impairments can have long-term impacts on a child's social and educational development. In severe cases, amblyopia can even cause blindness if not treated early.

From 2016 to 2023, almost 20,000 prep students were found to have a possible visual abnormality and referred to an eye health professional for further assessment.

Clinical nurse and program manager Sagen Wilks said a vision screening was particularly important for children starting school to ensure they have the best possible start to their education.

“When a vision concern goes undiagnosed in a child's formative years, it can lead to difficulties with concentration and behavioural issues in the classroom. Ultimately this can have an impact on learning outcomes,” Ms Wilks said.

“Children's eyes mature up until the age of eight, so early identification and treatment offers the best opportunity to address problem eye conditions.”

“Young children rarely report vision problems, so parents are often surprised to learn their child has a potential vision concern,” Ms Wilks added.

Mother Chloe Lowe said it's reassuring and convenient her daughter Eliza could access the free program, within her first few weeks of school.

“Instead of that time taken to book an appointment, take time off work, take time out of school, it's here for them and we've got the report straight away, the teachers have the report straight away and we're ready to go,” she said.

Read the full media release.