The age of tiger moms and helicopter parents has passed. That said, parents are actually more involved in their kids’ lives than they were even in the family-focused ’60s.
According to a University of California, Irvine, study, mothers spend twice as much time caring for family as they did in 1965. And, dads’ commitment has quadrupled since then.
Both translate to increased involvement in their children’s well-being. When it comes to eye care, however, there’s still one challenge: lack of knowledge.
As VSP Global research reports, parental concern doesn’t always result in chair time for their children. “While 3 in 4 parents (76%) say sight is the most important sense, only 50% of them take their kids for an annual eye exam.”
What can you do to open parents’ eyes? Position yourself—and your practice—as a key community resource.
To find out how, we asked a few kid-friendly ECPs to share their top community outreach tips. The first step? Deciding which activities most merit your limited time.
Janet Leasher, O.D., MPH, director of community outreach at Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry, suggests, “Start with your patient base. Conversations during routine exams can highlight a patient as the perfect liaison to community involvement.”
Two hot trends are parental involvement in vision care and community involvement by the whole family.
“Parents today are much more involved in every aspect of their kids’ lives than they were in the past,” says Michael Kling, O.D., president of Invision Optometry in San Diego.
“Of course, younger kids need direction, but I’m also seeing older ‘kids’—college-age and beyond—still getting input from their parents.”
That’s nothing new, says Margharet Hollander, owner of Optical Shop of Westport. “In the 25 years that I have had my Westport, CT, shop, I have always found parents to be involved.”
Another industry veteran, Kathy Dabbs Schramm, the founder of A Child’s View, with two locations in Southern California, sees one big change. “Parents are much more likely to come in with a lot more knowledge than when I started in 1984,” she says.
Social media plays a big role in growing the community. At Optical Shop of Westport, that includes participating in local parents’ blogs like WestportMoms.com .
In San Diego, notes Dr. Kling, “Our director of marketing dedicates 20 or more hours each week just for social media marketing.”
For Schramm, it’s about reaching out so that “area teachers, parents, and professional organizations, clubs, and coaches now understand and support children’s visual growth.”
In her book “Will My Child Actually Wear These Glasses?” Schramm says the goal is to find a balance. “While selection can be limited to frames more acceptable to the parent, the child should feel the final decision is his or hers.”
As for activities, “Invision Optometry offers free visual skills screenings to the community on one Saturday a month,” says Dr. Kling. “It’s a great way to give back to the community, but also to drive new patients to the practice.”
Hollander's shop hosts seasonal events for families, such as through sports safety days at back-to-school time.
What about external events? “We rotate sponsorships of various local teams,” notes Hollander.
Schramm points to a fundamental impact of community and education on the family. “Parents used to be more concerned with social acceptance and cosmetic appeal than long-term benefits,” she says. “They simply didn’t understand. Today’s parents, however, are more likely to put performance above price.”
Janet Leasher, O.D., MPH, director of community outreach at Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry, says, “Use the resources at your disposal for community outreach, such as pamphlets, displays, and information sheets at AOA Marketplace.”
You can also “promote your practice and activities with customizable news releases, presentations, and kits that coincide with awareness campaigns like InfantSEE.”
For information, visit infantsee.org .
Ryan Powell, O.D., of Vision Source Eyecare in Kansas City, talks to EB about his strategies for being a community resource.
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