Media Contact: Aimee Bergquist

W.K. Kellogg Foundation awards U-M grant to address inequities in children’s eye care

New fund established for eye glasses at the Kellogg Eye Center and for evaluation of why some children do not receive follow-up care after failed vision screenings

Ann Arbor, Mich -A two-year grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation  will allow University of Michigan ophthalmologists and researchers, along with collaborators around the state, to tackle disparities in children’s eye care that may result in delayed detection of eye disease or inadequate follow-up once a problem has been identified.

The $2 million grant, awarded to the U-M W.K. Kellogg Eye Center, will also support improved eye care for premature babies and create a fund to provide eye glasses for children in need.

“The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is committed to creating conditions that prepare children for long-term success,” says Jim McHale, vice president for program strategy for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “The opportunity for children to have healthy vision is fundamental to their learning and development. The foundation’s support of the U-M Kellogg Eye Center will address the barriers to eye care access for kids most in need, ensuring that all children have access to the quality of health care they deserve.”

Central to the project are questions about prompt detection of childhood eye diseases and follow-up when a child fails a pre-school vision test.

“The consequences of delayed treatment for certain eye conditions are significant,” says Kellogg pediatric ophthalmologist Steven M. Archer, M.D. “Children with amblyopia — or lazy eye — are most effectively treated at an early age; untreated amblyopia may result in permanent vision loss.”

In amblyopia, the connections that transmit information from the eye to the brain are poorly established. These connections are essential for vision development. Another common childhood disorder that can lead to vision loss is strabismus, in which the eyes are misaligned.

A team of Kellogg ophthalmologists and researchers led by David C. Musch, Ph.D., M.P.H., and Joshua D. Stein, M.D., M.S., will analyze data on the incidence and prevalence of strabismus and amblyopia, drawing on Medicaid and insurance claims databases. The research team expects to learn whether socioeconomic and demographic factors, such as age, race, household income, and community of residence contribute to delayed diagnosis of these childhood conditions.

To determine whether children receive proper follow-up care, Kellogg researchers will work with community organizations to track the results of preschool vision screenings.

“We’re interested in learning the extent to which referral after a vision problem is detected improves the child’s visual outcome,” says Archer. The research team will analyze the outcomes of the screenings — and whether the child actually received treatment — in an effort to improve follow-up care.

“The data we collect will help guide policymakers and health care providers alike,” says Paul P. Lee, M.D., J.D., the F. Bruce Fralick Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences in the U-M Medical School. “We will understand how to target our efforts and where resources are needed to address inequities in children’s eye care.”

Another arm of the project will seek to improve vision care for premature babies with low birth weight — babies more likely to have a potentially blinding condition known as retinopathy of prematurity. Under the grant, Kellogg’s newly recruited pediatric retina specialist Cagri C. Besirli, M.D., Ph.D., will help assess ways to deliver care to these infants. Together with colleagues at Duke University and William Beaumont Hospital, Besirli will also help to evaluate telemedicine technologies.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant will also create a continuing fund for families who might not otherwise be able to purchase special eye glasses, prisms — used to treat children’s eye muscle problems -- and other aids. The funds will be available to providers caring for children in need who are receiving care at Kellogg.

As the grant is completed, the Kellogg research team will share knowledge gained over the course of two years by holding national conferences on pediatric retina disease and on disparities in children’s eye care.

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.

About the University of Michigan W.K. Kellogg Eye Center

The University of Michigan W.K. Kellogg Eye Center is an internationally recognized center for eye care, education, and vision research. It is home of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, established as part of the University of Michigan Medical School, in 1872.

In 1983, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation provided support that allowed the Department of Ophthalmology to create a comprehensive eye center, bringing researchers and clinicians together in one location. The W.K. Kellogg Eye Center was dedicated in 1985. The Department’s program expanded again in 2010, with the opening of the new Kellogg Eye Center facility, providing for the growth of all subspecialties, including pediatric ophthalmology.

NOTICE: Except where otherwise noted, all articles are published under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. You are free to copy, distribute, adapt, transmit, or make commercial use of this work as long as you attribute Michigan Medicine as the original creator and include a link to this article.

Media Inquiries:  734-764-2220 8 a.m.-5 p.m. ET 

734-936-4000 after hours, weekends, and holidays (ask for the PR person on call)  umhsmedia@umich.edu for embargoed news, videos & more