Optometrists welcome free eye exams, corrective glasses for pre-schoolers

New Brunswick optometrists are applauding the province's decision to provide free eye exams and corrective glasses for all four-year-olds who are not covered by health insurance.

It was one of the promises made by the Gallant Liberals during the 2014 election campaign.

The province also announced last week that it will pay the deductible for those with existing public or private health insurance, starting next April.

It's welcome news for the New Brunswick Association of Optometrists, which has been lobbying the province on the issue for some time.

"By helping to ensure that the children of New Brunswick have eye examinations before starting school, our province is giving them a solid foundation to learn," said the association.

Officials say an estimated one-in-four children have a vision problem — blurred or double vision, or eyestrain — that is significant enough to impact learning.

But only 14 per cent of Canadian children have a comprehensive eye examination before starting school, and the association believes there could be several reasons for that.

"Children do not recognize that they are having difficulty seeing; they believe that there is nothing wrong with their vision as they have no standard for comparison," said the association.

"The cost of eye examination may also be prohibitive in some cases."

The association recommends that a child have at least one eye examination before starting school so that any visual issues, developmental or otherwise, can be detected and treated.