McMaster University helps bring eye care to Indigenous youth in Northern Ontario

In another outstanding social initiative, Hamilton’s own McMaster University has helped create a program that provides access to eye care for Indigenous children living in Northern Ontario.

The university has partnered with the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA) to create what they’ve called the Indigenous Children Eye Examination Project, which provides access to vision screening and eye exams for children and youth aged 6 months to 18 years.

The project originally launched in June 2020, connecting seven Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario to eye specialists at McMaster, who perform examinations virtually using special software developed at the university.

Additionally, the program has developed a means of filling prescriptions for eyeglasses, sending them to children in Northern Ontario within a matter of days.

The goal is to create a self-sustaining model that ensures continual access to eye care for young populations living in areas covered by the WAHA; an extremely important initiative, according to officials at McMaster.

“Normal vision is key for development in children, both physically and emotionally, as over 80 per cent of a child’s learning is based on vision,” says Dr. Kourosh Sabri, associate professor of surgery at McMaster and a pediatric ophthalmologist at McMaster Children’s Hospital who also acts as project lead.

Lack of access to regular eye care for Indigenous youth in Ontario means that numerous issues can go undetected. Sabri explains that more than one third of Indigenous children are farsighted; a statistic three times higher than that of non-Indigenous children. Additionally, blindness is six times more likely in Indigenous youth.

Read the full release on the McMaster website, and learn more about the Indigenous Children Eye Examination Project here.

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