"It is an honor to accept this
award from such an incredible organization," said Mrs. Blagojevich.
"As a parent, I understand how important it is to give your child
the best possible start in life. Amblyopia can have devastating
effects on a child's vision if left untreated. That's why it is so
important to raise awareness among parents and to help every child
get the treatment they need."
Amblyopia, also known as "lazy eye," is the most common cause of
preventable vision loss in the United States. It affects 2 percent
to 3 percent of children, but many parents have never heard of it.
If detected early, treatment is almost always successful, but when
amblyopia goes unchecked, it can lead to blindness in one eye.
Routine screening and detection before age 5 are the most effective
Mrs. Blagojevich launched the
Illinois Pediatric Vision Awareness Initiative in April 2004, after
a friend's son was diagnosed with amblyopia. Over the course of
several months, Mrs. Blagojevich assembled a team of state agencies
to distribute nearly 1 million English and Spanish brochures to
parents, doctors, teachers and local health departments across the
state. Additionally, the Illinois Department of Public Aid sent
notices to physicians urging them to screen children for ocular
disorders and reviewing billing procedures for screenings.
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Mrs. Blagojevich used a variety of
creative tactics to reach parents whose children do not have access
to regular medical checkups. The Department of Human Services
shipped 300,000 brochures to local WIC clinics and 100,000 brochures
to child care resource and referral agencies. The Department of
Public Aid gave brochures to Medicaid-eligible families with young
children. The Illinois State Board of Education distributed
brochures to classroom teachers and parents with children in the
Early Childhood Block Grant programs. The Department of Children and
Family Services handed out 135,000 brochures to foster families,
private providers of foster care and subsidized guardianship
families. Brochures were also available in the first lady's tent at
the state fair in Springfield and in DuQuoin.
ORBIS International is best known
for its Flying Eye Hospital, which brings teams of ophthalmologists
to impoverished regions of the world to conduct eye surgeries and to
train local doctors. Over the last five years, ORBIS has invested
millions of dollars in more than 40 projects to end childhood
blindness. ORBIS has worked with local partners to establish
pediatric ophthalmology centers in the developing world, many of
which are the first of their kind in the region.
Mrs. Blagojevich accepted her award
Wednesday evening at ORBIS' "Crystal Ball for Sight" at the Drake
Hotel. United Airlines and ORBIS volunteer faculty from the
Midwestern states were also honored.
[News release from the