Everett Branstad, Prevent Blindness Iowa’s 2019 Youth Ambassador, will join Prevent Blindness Iowa and delegates from across the country for the 14th annual Prevent Blindness “Eyes on Capitol Hill” advocacy day on Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in Washington, D.C. The event brings together those who have been affected by vision issues with government representatives and their staff members to discuss the importance of vision programs and funding that save sight.

Everett, son of Marcus and Nicole Branstad of Adel, is a spunky 5-year-old who can’t wait to be a kindergartener this fall. Not a day goes by that he isn’t building towers, drawing airplanes and daydreaming about becoming a garbage truck driver.

Last year, Everett took part in a free vision screening at his preschool conducted by Prevent Blindness Iowa. After not passing the screening, he visited an eye doctor and was diagnosed with astigmatism and prescribed glasses. After finding the perfect pair, Everett has loved wearing them ever since.

“We are so thankful that Prevent Blindness Iowa’s screening was offered through his school,” stated Everett’s parents. “We were completely unaware that he wasn’t seeing things clearly and are so thankful to have caught it early.”

Everett loves putting on his glasses every morning. Not only do they look sharp, but they help him, in his words, “make things less fuzzy.” Thanks to the early detection of his vision problem, Everett will have two healthy eyes to spot garbage trucks from miles away!

Early detection of Everett’s vision problem was key. One in 20 preschoolers and approximately one in four school-aged children have a vision problem requiring treatment, yet only about 14 percent of children receive an eye exam before they attend school. Healthy vision is important for school success, and some children’s vision conditions can cause permanent vision loss if not caught and treated early.

According to the recent Prevent Blindness study “The Future of Vision: Forecasting the Prevalence and Costs of Vision Problems,” vision impairments are projected to cost the United States $167 billion in 2019, due in large part to the aging population. Yet, for every $18,600 that vision problems cost the country, only a single dollar is allocated to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) toward their prevention. Annual costs are projected to increase to $717 billion by 2050 without significant investments in vision and eye health.

This year’s Eyes on Capitol Hill advocates will ask elected officials to:Invest $5 million in funding for the CDC’s Vision Health Initiative to conduct much-needed surveillance.Maintain the CDC’s work in glaucoma prevention and awareness with $4 million.Provide $850 million to the National Eye Institute (NEI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“By providing Everett and his family with the opportunity to share his story directly with policymakers, we hope to inform them on the direct impact that vision issues have on their own constituents and how we can all work together to help save sight,” said Jeanne Burmeister, Prevent Blindness Iowa Executive Director.

On Wednesday, July 17, all Eyes on Capitol Hill delegates will attend the eighth annual Focus on Eye Health National Summit at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

For more information on Eyes on Capitol Hill or Prevent Blindness Iowa and its advocacy initiatives, please call 515-244-4341/800-329-8782 or visit us on the web at www.preventblindness.org/iowa.