Senate approves bill to detect eye problems among pre-school children

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate approved on Monday, October 8, a bill seeking to establish a nationwide program that would detect eye diseases among kindergarten students.

Senate Bill 1706 or the National Vision Screening Act seeks to create a vision screening program for children in pre-school as part of efforts to treat eye diseases in early stages and later on prevent it from getting worse.

The bill also proposed the program to be done among pre-school aged children as good eye sight plays a crucial role in learning.

Data from the Philippine Eye Research Institute (PERI) as of 2017 showed that one in 20 pre-schoolers and one in 4 school-aged children experienced eye problems. Over 10% of Filipino children were also expected to have “visual acuity” issues or problems with their vision.

How it will work: Should the bill be passed into law, the Department of Education (DepEd) will coordinate with the Department of Health (DOH) and PERI to carry out a screening program.

A database containing students’ results from the test will then be created. The results will be used to “develop a system of referral and corrective measures.”

Funding research: The bill also seeks to create a fund to be known as “Vision Screening Continuing Research Fund” (VSCR) which will be sourced from donations. It would be used for research on eye diseases and treatment.

Should the bill be passed, it would also mandate the PERI to continuously do research on eye diseases.

In addition to this, annual appropriation of funds covering the vision screening will also be part of the annual budgets of the DepEd and DOH to cover public students. For students in private schools, funding will be have to assumed by the schools themselves.

Donations and contributions to VSCR will be considered exempt from donor’s tax and can form part of allowable deduction from the gross income of the donor.

The Senate’s approval of the bill comes nearly a year after the House of Representatives transmitted the approved measure in December 2017. – with reports from Camille Elemia/Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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