New vision screening device benefits Crawford County

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Public Health Nurse Deanna Wallin-Sander demonstrates the Plus-Optix camera on Public Health Nurse Michelle Breuer.

The Plus Optix camera has a “happy face” to help attract a child’s attention.

By Ted Pennekamp


There is a new vision screening program in Crawford County for children. Crawford County Public Health and local Lions clubs from Prairie du Chien, Seneca, Gays Mills, Soldiers Grove and Wauzeka have partnered to purchase a Plus-Optix Vision Screening camera with a mission of improving the detection of vision problems. 

“The Lions clubs have been tremendous to work with,” said Public Health Nurse Deanna Wallin-Sander. “It’s a partnership benefitting the county.” 

Wallin-Sander noted that the purpose of the program is to identify treatable or preventable causes of commonly occurring visual problems in preschool and school-age children. Early detection of these problems can have an enormous educational and behavioral benefit and certainly improves the quality of life. 

“The Plus-Optix camera is a mobile and very sophisticated screening device that can quickly and easily provide reliable and objective screening results,” said Wallin-Sander who noted that the device instantly checks for a range of vision conditions. A “pass” or “refer” screening result is provided immediately. A “refer” result indicates the child should see an eye care professional for a comprehensive exam. A “pass” result indicates good eye health for now. The eyes should be retested regularly as they change with growth. 

Wallin-Sander said that the Plus-Optix camera provides a much more comprehensive screening and has proven more accurate and reliable than the old Snellen “E” Chart that most adults are familiar with. 

Donations from the Lions clubs and a grant from the George Family Foundation raised $5,500 towards the cost of the $7,000 needed for the screener. 

The screener can be lent out to schools and daycare centers. Vision screening has been used on 609 preschool and school-age children in five Crawford County school districts. Of those students, 36 were referred to see an eye care professional for a complete examination. 

Wallin-Sander stressed that the screener is not a diagnostic device but is a tool that can detect a possible problem. “It is important to catch possible vision problems very early,” Wallin-Sander said. In one recent example, the device helped to detect a “lazy” eye in an 18-month-old girl at a daycare facility. Wallin-Sander said that schools and daycare centers should contact Crawford County Public Health if they wish to use the screener. Parental permission is needed in order to screen children at a daycare. Wallin-Sander said that the screener can also be taken to the home of home-schooled children or the children can come to the Public Health Department in the Crawford County Administrative Building in Prairie du Chien.

Older versions of the screener involved Polaroid photos and were more cumbersome because computers and other equipment was needed. Wallin-Sander said that the Plus-Optix is highly mobile because no other equipment is involved. It also uses an SD card to store the visual screening information. The results can be emailed to an eye care professional. 

Wallin-Sander said that there has been great enthusiasm from school nurses and teachers about the new vision screening program because it’s a huge improvement over traditional vision screening and is much faster. 

The Plus-Optix mobile vision screening device screens both eyes at the same time at a distance of about 3 feet. There is a “happy face” on the camera and a sound target to attract the child’s attention. In less than a second, the measurement is complete. A “pass” or “refer” screening result is provided immediately. The results identify refractive error (nearsighted, farsighted and astigmatism), binocular alignment (strabismus, eye turns), unequal refractive error (anisometropia), and unequal pupil size (anisorcoria). The results can also be printed as a reference when referring a child to see an eye care professional.

“To be able to detect vision conditions that would have been missed with traditional screening is wonderful,” said Wallin-Sander. 

“It’s an awesome tool,” said Public Health Nurse Michelle Breuer.

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