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In Focus

Eagles Eye Mobile: A Vision for the Future

By February 28, 2022May 15th, 2024Community Health
An examination is performed in the Eagles Eye Mobile

A trained eye care professional provides a free vision screening in the Eagles Eye Mobile.

About one in four children in public schools will need glasses to see the board, read a book, or participate in class. Children who need glasses and don’t have them are likely to be misdiagnosed with behavioral issues in kindergarten and considered “slow” learners by fifth grade. In some worst-case scenarios, a child with vision problems may even drop out of high school because of their inability to feel fully engaged.

Unfortunately, in lower income communities, most children who need glasses don’t have them due to financial constraints, language barriers, or the simple fact there are no eye care professionals in their neighborhood.

Eagles Eye Mobile

Since 1996, the Eagles Eye Mobile has visited approximately 120 schools in the Greater Philadelphia area to make free vision screenings, eye exams, and prescription glasses accessible to under-insured and uninsured children. Thanks in large part to the longtime support we’ve received from Independence Blue Cross and later, the Independence Blue Cross Foundation, the program has now expanded. Through a partnership with Vision to Learn, a California nonprofit, nearly all students in the School District of Philadelphia will receive the vision care services they need.

Vision to Learn

Vision to Learn works with classroom educators and school nurses to ensure every child receives a vision screening. The Eagles Eye Mobile, powered by Vision to Learn, brings trained eye care professionals to schools to conduct eye exams and provide glasses to students who may need them — all at no cost to the child and their family. Children who are diagnosed with a more serious eye issue are referred to one of the city’s leading healthcare institutions for further analysis and follow-up care.

Giving Kids the History of Healthy Sight

The inspiration for the Eye Mobile came from Jermane Mayberry, an offensive guard drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1996. As a child, Mayberry suffered from an underdeveloped optic nerve in his left eye. The condition was so debilitating that he decided to do something to help prevent eye disease in children.

Today, with the added support of Vision to Learn, the Eagles Eye Mobile now has five mobile vision clinics in Philadelphia. To date, more than 61,000 students have received eye exams and more than 46,000 students have received eyeglasses, free of charge.

What the Research Says

While we know our program works, a recent groundbreaking study provided further proof of our success. Researchers from the Center for Research and Reform in Education and the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University recently published a study in JAMA Ophthalmology showing that the children who received glasses did better in school.

The study also showed the impacts were greater than more costly measures such as lengthening the school day, providing computers, or creating charter schools. The children who showed the biggest gains — the equivalent of an extra four to six months of learning — were students in the bottom quarter of their class academically and students with learning difference and disabilities.

Looking Ahead

Every child deserves the opportunity to learn without barriers such as poor eye care. We’re grateful for the support we receive from the Independence Blue Cross Foundation and others who help us create more equity for children. We’re excited about the expansion of our program and look forward to serving more children in the region.

 

Dr. Peter Silberman

Dr. Peter Silberman came to Vision to Learn after 13 years in education, including as a secondary administrator, counselor and teacher, and education professor. As Chief Growth Officer, Pete focuses on strategies for sustainable scaling to bring critical vision care to more students in need across the country. Dr. Silberman earned his doctorate in Education from the University of California, Los Angeles, and his BA from the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two daughters.