$14 million screening program to detect vision problems in Prep students

31 August 2016

Every Prep student in Queensland will have their vision screened under a new $14 million primary school nurse program launched today by the Palaszczuk Government.

More than 30 nurses will be appointed by February 2017 as part of the Primary School Nurse Health Readiness Program, which is being led by Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service.

Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Cameron Dick visited Berrinba East State School today to announce the program, which aims to screen the vision of every Prep student in Queensland’s government and non-government primary schools.

“Our government is committed to ensuring Queensland children start their schooling with keen and healthy eyes so they can begin their education journey on the right foot,” he said.

Mr Dick said vision screening was vital in early childhood, particularly for conditions such as the most common cause of visual impairment in children, amblyopia (or a ‘lazy eye’), which affects about 1 in every 50 Australian children.

“Without early detection, these conditions can negatively impact on a child’s social and educational development, as well as increase the risk of total blindness in adulthood,” he said.

“By starting treatment while a child’s visual pathway is still maturing (up to age eight), we have a we have a greater chance of reversing this damaging condition without any long-term effects on vision.

“We know that early intervention is the best prevention, and by introducing this vital screening program, we can identify and act on health issues and give Queensland children the best chance of reaching their full potential.”

About 3350 Prep students in the greater Brisbane area have already been screened in the first stage of the program.

Children’s Health Queensland has appointed eight registered nurses and three clinical nurses to establish the program in South East Queensland and form a central hub to provide ongoing project co-ordination, education and support for program nurses across the state.

Nurses will be appointed imminently in Sunshine Coast, West Moreton, Central Queensland and South West Hospital and Health Services, with further nurses to be appointed throughout the remainder of the state by February next year.

The appointed nurses will also work with Children’s Health Queensland’s Centre for Children’s Health and Wellbeing to provide extra support in identified vulnerable communities where other factors, such as development and poor nutrition, may impact school readiness.

Mr Dick said funding for the program was being rolled out over four years and that the program bolstered the government’s 10-year health vision, My health, Queensland’s Future: Advancing Health 2026.

“By supporting two key directions of this vision – promoting wellbeing and delivering healthcare – this program is furthering our goal for Queenslanders to be among the healthiest people in the world by 2026,” he said.