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Start early! Senate OKs bill creation vision screening program for preschool-age kids

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The senators want a law establishing a program for “early detection” of visual problems among kindergarten pupils.

The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading Senate Bill No. 1706 or the “National Vision Screening Act.”

It aims to institutionalize a nationwide eye screening program for kindergarten pupils under the Department of Education (DepEd).

“The vision of young children, particularly those at a preschool age, plays a crucial role in their development as their sight is the primary guide to most of their learning experiences,” Senator Sonny Angara said.

“It is clear that good and healthy visual skills are fundamental to bolster a child’s literacy,” said Angara, the bill’s principal author.

Vision screening of preschool-aged children would allow early detection of blindness and other visual disorders, which, if not treated, “could lead to education, occupational and safety restrictions later in life,” he said.

“It is only proper to establish an early diagnostic initiative for young children,” the senator from Baler said.

SBN 1706 advances a health policy grounded on early preventive intervention that is more efficient than remediation at a later age.

Under SBN 1706, the DepEd, in coordination with the Department of Health (DoH) and the Philippine Eye Research Institute (PERI), will administer the vision screening program.

The DepEd must also create a database on the results of the tests and develop a system of referral and corrective measures.

The conduct of a continuing research by PERI on childhood eye ailments is mandated with the creation of the Vision Screening Continuing Research Fund (VSCR), funding of which will be sourced from donations.

All donations and contributions to VSCR must be exempt from donor’s tax and must be permitted as allowable deduction from the gross income of the donor.

An appropriation will be included in the annual national budgets of DepEd and DoH to cover for the expenses of the vision screening tests of public kindergarten pupils while those enrolled in private schools will be assumed by the private schools concerned.