Highmark Inc. recently awarded $50,000 to the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind (PAB) for its statewide Prevention of Blindness program designed to prevent vision loss and impairment in children.

The incidence of visual impairment in children is alarming. According to Prevent Blindness America, vision problems affect one in 20 preschoolers and one in four school-age children. For more than 95 years, PAB has been Pennsylvania's leading private association in the ongoing struggle to prevent serious vision conditions due to disease and eye injuries.

"Eye health and clear vision are very important to the development and education of children," said Yvonne Cook, vice president Community Health Initiatives at Highmark Inc. "There is documented evidence that undiagnosed vision problems in children can result in behavior and other medical issues. Highmark is pleased to support PAB, a vital resource for vision health."

As the statewide coordinator, PAB works with member agencies to ensure standardized and accurate statewide vision screenings and educational programs. PAB will be disbursing funds from its grant to eight of its member agencies that provide the services. These agencies are:

-- Berks County Association for the Blind

-- Butler County Association for the Blind

-- Keystone Blind Association

-- Lawrence County Association for the Blind

-- Somerset County Blind Center

-- Tri-County Association for the Blind

-- Vision & Blindness Resources (VBR) - Erie Center

-- Westmoreland County Blind Association

"Highmark Blue Shield has shown a sincere and generous commitment to preventing blindness and serious visual impairment in our communities," said Neal J. Carrigan, PAB president & CEO. "These grant funds will be invaluable to our agencies and the children they serve in 17 counties across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."

The Prevention of Blindness program focuses on three main areas of vision health: complete vision screenings/exam for preschool children; educational sessions that use child-friendly DVDs, books and games; and facilitating referrals to licensed optometrists or ophthalmologists.

In the fiscal year 2005-06, almost 70,000 children received vision screenings and more than 40,000 children participated in educational sessions across the state.

About Highmark

As one of the leading health insurers in Pennsylvania, Highmark Inc.'s mission is to provide access to affordable, quality health care enabling individuals to live longer, healthier lives. Based in Pittsburgh, Highmark serves 4.6 million people through the company's health care benefits business. Highmark contributes millions of dollars to help keep quality health care programs affordable and to support community-based programs that work to improve people's health. The company provides the resources to give its members a greater hand in their health.

Highmark Inc. is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans. For more information, visit http://www.highmark.com.

About the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind

The Pennsylvania Association for the Blind has been dedicated to helping people prevent, prepare for, and manage vision loss since 1910. As one of very few incorporated statewide blindness-related membership agencies in the United States, PAB provides comprehensive blindness and visual impairment services in 67 counties. Through PAB's Prevention of Blindness programs and Specialized Services, thousands of Pennsylvanians benefit from PAB's services. PAB provides: vision screenings and educational programs, escorted transportation services, home management/ safety retrofitting, life skills training, adjustment to blindness counseling, access technology and computer training, Braille instruction, orientation and mobility training, financial support services, radio reading, summer instructional programs, preschool programs, health education, low vision clinics, vocational rehabilitation, and more.

Highmark Inc.
http://www.highmark.com