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

PHOENIX–(BUSINESS WIRE)–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

“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 are essential
elements needed to help ensure a child is on track to becoming a
successful reader—and they are key parts 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.
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View Piper Trust’s FY14 Annual Report at:


Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust
Karen Leland, 480-556-7125
Communications and External Relations