Special Projects Fund

Grantee Name

Fund for Public Health in New York, Inc.

Funding Area

Special Projects Fund

Publication Date

October 2019

Grant Amount


Grant Date:

October 2015 – May 2018


Undiagnosed vision problems are particularly common for children with limited access to preventive and vision health services. New York City children are offered free school-based vision screenings through the fifth grade, but many may not develop vision problems until they are older.

NYHealth awarded the Fund for Public Health in New York (the Fund), in collaboration with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (DOHMH) Office of School Health (OSH), a grant to pilot a vendor-based model to provide vision screenings, exams, and glasses to middle and high school students in New York City. The model aimed to bill Medicaid for the 60% of students expected to be eligible for coverage in selected pilot schools, with NYHealth funds covering the cost of services for the other 40% of students who are uninsured.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned


  • Developed a service delivery model that used OSH staff to perform vision screenings for seventh and tenth graders in selected schools.
  • Leveraged existing OSH staff presence by selecting community schools that are co-located in the same building as other schools to maximize the number of students reached.
  • Contracted with two vendors, the Optical Academy and Helen Keller International, to provide eye exams and glasses.
  • Conducted vision screenings to 6,704 seventh and tenth graders.
  • Billed Medicaid for 122 exams and 119 glasses, which would have cost the City $4,835 without this project.
  • Found that using a third-party vendor in combination with Medicaid reimbursements can result in cost savings, mainly because of lower labor costs.

Although the pilot project showed promise as a model for cost savings, the Fund encountered challenges in reaching its target numbers, largely as a result of the nature of public schools. Originally, the Fund aimed to provide screening services to a potential pool of 9,233 students registered at 86 schools on 50 campuses. However, because of the size fluctuation in community schools, the potential pool of students decreased to 8,554 students registered at 84 schools on 62 campuses. Of this pool, OSH staff screened just 6,704 students. Challenges to this pilot included student absenteeism; issues with securing parental consent forms; the lack of involvement of school staff in conducting outreach to parents; and scheduling conflicts with citywide academic testing. However, with some adjustments, the model shows promise for any future programs, including any adopted by the City, that seek to address vision health services for school children.

Since the completion of the pilot, the assistant commissioner of OSH has spearheaded an effort to share the cost information results with policymakers and has started discussions with appropriate New York City Department of Education (DOE) and DOHMH administrators to build support for the project’s continuation and expansion.

Since the close of this grant, the City of New York, DOE’s Office of Community Schools, and OSH embarked on a separate pilot with the eyewear company Warby Parker—the Pupils Project. Informed by lessons of the NYHealth-funded pilot, the Pupils Project provided free vision screenings, eye exams, and glasses to students enrolled in 224 New York City community schools. In this model, Warby Parker provided glasses to the students as part of the free vision screenings, distributing approximately 26,000 pairs of glasses by the end of 2018.

Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: The City of New York committed $2 million to this project.

See the full NYHealth report here.