Unique initiative aims to deliver good eye health to local communities in Birmingham

Jack Dromey, MP for Birmingham Erdington, visited Aston University campus on Friday July 23 to learn about a unique initiative to deliver good eye health to communities in Birmingham.

Villa Vision, a joint project between the Aston Villa Foundation, Aston University's Optometry School and optical lens supplier Essilor Vision for Life, aims to benefit the local community through the provision of free eye care and to raise awareness of the importance of eye care for all.

Pupils from the poorest backgrounds are more likely to suffer from uncorrected vision problems. Left untreated, vision problems may result in the need for more learning support at school and can lead to health and vision consequences in later life.

Aston University worked alongside the Aston Villa Foundation and Citizens UK to listen to the local community, which identified that children and adults in the local area face a number of challenges when it comes to accessing eye care, including a lack of parental support, awareness, accessibility, language barriers and a misconception about cost.

In addition, it has been shown that children from less affluent areas are nearly 30% less likely to have an eye test than children from more affluent areas, with this number significantly increasing among adults.

Funded by the Premier League and the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), the project is designed to fill a crucial lack of knowledge surrounding the importance of having an eye test and how preventative measures can ensure, among a host of benefits, a lifetime of good vision.

The Villa Vision team is delivering a programme of eye-health awareness lessons in the classroom, as well as free vision and colour vision screening, followed by a more comprehensive eye test and free glasses to those children who require them, using a fully operational custom-designed mobile eye care unit.

So far, the initiative has engaged with over 1750 local children and adults through classroom workshops and have vision and colour vision screened around 1100 local primary aged children.

Aston University and Aston Villa Foundation have a strong social purpose and the successful delivery of Villa Vision in our local schools demonstrates this perfectly. Eyesight problems shouldn't hold any child back.

Poor vision can often go unnoticed, particularly amongst children so Villa Vision will provide the opportunity for children to have a free vision screening check at school. In addition to this, for those children requiring further investigation the initiative will also provide a full eye examination and glasses if required for free using a fully equipped mobile eyecare unit."

Jack Dromey, MP for Birmingham, Erdington

Nikhil Sonpal, Villa Vision project manager and optometrist said:

"Children may not always recognise whether there is something wrong with their vision and it is particularly damaging if vision problems go undetected.

"We understand that, particularly in more deprived communities, many children and adults may face a number of significant challenges and barriers when it comes to accessing eye care services," Mr Sonpal added.

Dr Angela Jeffery, director of regional strategy at Aston University, said:

"Engaging with communities on Villa Vision has provided insights into the challenges local people face and helped to shape Aston University's Civic Agreement."

"Our approach to public engagement draws on innovative community-facing activities across the University and we are constantly developing new and exciting ways of engaging with the public and look to the diverse communities around us to contribute, collaborate and coproduce initiatives with us."

Leon Davies, professor of optometry and physiological optics and head of the School of Optometry at Aston University said:

"We are delighted to be working with Aston Villa and Essilor to share our clinical and research expertise in providing evidence-based eye care.

"Designed for our region, Villa Vision will benefit our local community through the provision of free eye care and by raising awareness of the importance of eye health for all."

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