Verizon Foundation Awards $100,000 Grant to Sight Savers America to Expand Its School-Based Rural Health Care Program

The Verizon Foundation on Wednesday (May 18) awarded Sight Savers America a $100,000 grant to expand the use of wireless technology for the organization's KidCheck Program, a K-12 school-based health initiative that provides annual comprehensive health screenings for children in participating school systems. 

The grant builds on a successful Verizon Foundation grant in 2010 that piloted the use of wireless KidCheck technology in four schools in the Bullock County School System.  The technology was developed by Auburn University.

Jeff Mango, president - Georgia/Alabama region of Verizon Wireless, said the grant has the potential to affect the lives of more than 16,000 Alabama students, particularly in rural areas of the state. 

"We see the exciting potential of technology to help address disparities in the access to quality health care in rural areas," Mango said. "Verizon is proud to help Sight Savers build on the initial success of the KidCheck partnership. Supporting programs that use technology to improve access to health care is among Verizon's top priorities."

Jeff Haddox, founder and CEO of Sight Savers, said the new grant will expand the program to an additional eight to 10 school systems and link the KidCheck database in real time with the Sight Savers database.

"In the past, KidCheck used a manual screening process, leaving school nurses with the daunting task of going through a stack of paperwork, reaching out to parents, and sending follow-up paperwork to Sight Savers and various health care providers," Haddox said. "This often took months, which slowed the coordination of follow-up care for the children." 

The Verizon Foundation grant will fund the hardware and software needed to make the KidCheck screening process completely paperless.  The grant will fund a central information repository so data can be kept electronically.  Additionally, the grant will fund the training of this new technology for participating college nursing school faculty and students who administer the KidCheck screenings.

To date, KidCheck has been implemented in more than 35 Alabama school systems, in conjunction with more than 20 Alabama two- and four-year college nursing schools.  During KidCheck, eight to 10 stations are set up in a school gym to screen for height and weight; heart, blood pressure and respiratory rates; and to provide eye, ear, nose and throat exams.  Sight Savers provides case-managed follow-up care for children failing a KidCheck vision screening.  

"Sight Savers intends to use this grant to take KidCheck to a whole new level and to build an unmatched health care network for children in need that will set the bar for other states," Haddox said. "Verizon is making it possible for Alabama to lead the nation in preventative health screenings in our schools."

The Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon, uses its technology, financial resources and partnerships to address critical social issues, with a focus on education and domestic violence prevention. In 2010, the foundation awarded nearly $67 million to nonprofit agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

KidCheck became a department of Sight Savers America in February.  KidCheck was initially launched by Governor Bob Riley in 2008 as a state program and was led by the Alabama Rural Action Commission with the strong support of the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) and the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH).  The Sight Savers America KidCheck Program has continued strategic partnerships with Governor Robert Bentley's Administration and various state agencies including ALSDE, ADPH, and the Alabama Rural Development Office.

Sight Savers is a Birmingham-based nonprofit working in eight states and reaching approximately 250,000 students. The organization coordinates all necessary follow-up eye care services from the State Vision Program that screens every kindergarten, second grade and fourth grade public school student in Alabama. Sight Savers unique case management protocol ensures that qualifying children receive free follow-up eye care treatment including eye glasses, vision aids and even necessary eye surgery.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE, NASDAQ:VZ), headquartered in New York, is a global leader in delivering broadband and other wireless and wireline communications services to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers.  Verizon Wireless operates America's most reliable wireless network, with more than 104 million total connections nationwide.  Verizon also provides converged communications, information and entertainment services over America's most advanced fiber-optic network, and delivers seamless business solutions to customers around the world.  A Dow 30 company, Verizon employs a diverse workforce of more than 196,000 and last year generated consolidated revenues of $106.6 billion.  For more information, visit www.verizon.com.