Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Names Karen Woodhouse Arizona Children’s Vision Screening Director

December 2, 2015

Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust Names Karen Woodhouse Arizona Children’s Vision Screening Director
New Initiative to Help Advance Need for Children’s Vision Screening

Karen Woodhouse

Karen Woodhouse

PHOENIX, Ariz.—Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust announced today the appointment of Karen Woodhouse, an early childhood development expert, as the Arizona children’s vision screening director. With input from local nonprofits, agencies, and philanthropies, Piper Trust established this new full-time consulting position to help strengthen and expand efforts that address children’s vision needs. Woodhouse will coordinate a statewide initiative to ensure all children have effective vision screening and the appropriate follow-up services that are essential to good health and learning success.

“Proactive and sequential screening for vision problems in children is needed to identify and treat potential conditions that would otherwise be a barrier to learning and healthy development,” said Susan Pepin, M.D., president and CEO, Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. “This new initiative will help advance the critical need for children’s vision screening and it dovetails beautifully with Piper Trust’s participation in the collaborative effort [Read On Arizona] working to improve early literacy in Arizona.”

Through the vision screening initiative, which requires collaboration and partnerships for success, Woodhouse will use the skills that enabled her to build two statewide programs from the ground up. She most recently was chief program officer at First Things First, where she led the division that, among other things, strived for continuous improvement of early childhood systems, including preventative screening for developmental and sensory (hearing and vision) delays. As deputy associate superintendent at the Arizona Department of Education, she established in 2003 the department’s Early Childhood Education Division.

Woodhouse said her new role of identifying needs and coordinating current vision screening efforts in Arizona matches her interests, abilities, and passion for young children in trying to “equalize opportunities to start school in a really good place so they can be successful.”

“Vision is so critical,” Woodhouse said. “It’s not just about seeing a chalkboard or a whiteboard when a child is in school—it’s about seeing facial expressions and changing emotions in an adult face and seeing the differences. Sight is also an avenue for how an infant bonds and attaches to others.”

As the Arizona children’s vision screening director, Woodhouse will work closely with Arizona Literacy Director Terri Clark, another position established and supported by six founding partners, including Piper Trust. Clark leads Read On Arizona, an initiative dedicated to improving literacy and language outcomes for children from birth to 8.

“Read On Arizona is thrilled by Karen’s appointment as the children’s vision screening director. Identification and remediation of visual problems in a child’s early years are critical and can prevent later academic difficulties. Vision screening and referral is an essential element needed to help ensure a child is on track to becoming a successful reader—and it is a key part of our strategic literacy plan,” said Clark.

Dr. Joseph M. Miller, head of Ophthalmology and Vision Science at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and a longtime vision screening researcher, said the earlier a vision problem is detected the better the outcome for children. New technology makes possible vision screening at a very early age, well before a child has the skills to read an eye chart. Universal screening for vision problems, a referral for additional care if needed, and a system of sharing information about a child’s vision would go a long way in advancing health and learning, he added.

“There are children walking around with straight eyes that don’t look abnormal, but the world is out of focus and they are not seeing well,” Miller said. “They have a disability that’s not obvious to anybody.”

About 1 in 5 American children has a vision problem, according to a report in the Journal of School Health. Uncorrected vision problems can worsen over time and could lead to permanent vision loss. The American Optometric Association reports in its clinical guideline “Care of the Patient with Learning Vision Problems” that blurred or distorted text is likely to “decrease word processing speed and efficiency, reduce reading rate, and compromise reading comprehension.” Attention diverted to manage the visual efficiency problem is at the expense of information processing. “The proliferation of computer-assisted instruction in the school setting—notwithstanding the dramatic increase in computer use at home and school—has created an even greater demand for visual efficiency,” the association said.

About Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust:
Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust supports organizations that enrich health, well-being, and opportunity for the people of Maricopa County, Arizona. Since it began awarding grants in 2000, Piper Trust has invested more than $347 million in local nonprofits and programs. Piper Trust grantmaking areas are healthcare and medical research, children, older adults, arts and culture, education, and religious organizations. For more information, visit www.pipertrust.org. Follow us on Twitter @PiperTrust; visit us on Facebook. View Piper Trust’s FY14 Annual Report at: www.pipertrust.org/annualreport2014

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Karen Leland, 480-556-7125 / kleland@pipertrust.org
Director, Communications and External Relations
Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, 1202 East Missouri Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona 85014