Childhood Obesity Creates Risk for Chronic Diseases

Childhood obesity is an epidemic that is impacting the health and wellness of  millions of children. To bring attention to this critical situation, September was deemed National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, a month to reflect on the problem of childhood obesity in America.  Although September has come and gone we must continue to reflect on the problem of childhood obesity and how to stop it.

The Facts

The percentage of children with obesity in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s. In fact, one in 3 children in the United States are overweight or obese putting children at a higher risk for chronic diseases once only seen in adults, like diabetes. There are increasing incidences of diabetes among obese youth which can lead to eye disease and vision loss. In addition to diabetes, children with obesity are at higher risk for other health conditions such as heart disease, asthma, sleep apnea, and bone/joint problems.

Growth Charts

Health professionals use growth charts to see whether a child’s weight falls into a healthy range for the child’s height, age, and sex. Children with a BMI (Body Mass Index) above the 85th percentile and less than the 95th percentile are considered overweight. BMI percentile is preferred for measuring children and young adults (ages 2–20), rather than weight, because it takes into account that they are still growing, and growing at different rates depending on their age and sex.

Bullying and Teasing

Besides the physical health risks, it has been found that children with obesity are bullied and teased more than their normal-weight peers and are more likely to suffer from social isolation, depression, and low self-esteem. The effects of bullying can result in poor performance in school, mental health issues,  and addictions. These effects can have lifelong impact on the child’s self image and future prospects.

Childhood Obesity is Preventable

The most important thing to know about child obesity is that it can be prevented. It is important to tackle the issue as soon as possible, under a doctor’s guidance, and without drawing unnecessary and prolonged attention to the child’s physical appearance. In the long term, childhood obesity is associated with having obesity as an adult, which is linked to serious conditions and diseases.

Spread Awareness

Encourage the families you know to be aware of the risks related to childhood obesity and take their child’s weight and fitness seriously. Advise them to make small changes, like keeping fresh fruit, instead of high caloric snacks, within reach for after school snacks. Commit as a family to physical activity, like going on a family walk after dinner instead of watching a favorite television show. Make physical fitness and healthy eating a natural part of your lifestyle. If you are a grandparent, forego giving traditional “grandparent” like fresh-baked cookies, cake, and chocolate on a regular basis. Instead, keep these items as infrequent treats and keep your own home stocked with healthy food choices for their visits. Ensuring our children have healthy habits helps motivates us to make better life choices as well!

Article from The Economist – White Cane 2.0

Interesting article from The Economist regarding White Cane alternative.

This article appeared in the Science and technology section of the print edition under the headline “White cane 2.0”

Helping blind people navigate

White cane 2.0

A new way to assist those with poor eyesight

Dr Rus’s device, of which she demonstrated a prototype on June 1st at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Singapore, consists of a camera worn on a lanyard around the neck, and a belt. A computer inside the camera creates a three-dimensional image of the area ahead of the wearer, processes it to extract relevant information, and uses the results to pass on appropriate signals via the belt.

Dr Rus knew from previous attempts to build devices of this sort that what might seem the obvious way of manifesting those signals, namely as sounds with specific meanings, was not, in fact, a good approach. Blind people depend a lot on their hearing and do not like it when newfangled devices hamper this sense with beeps and clicks. Hence the belt, which has five vibrating motors installed in it. One sits over the centre of the wearer’s abdomen. The others flank this central motor, with two spaced out on either side of it.

That configuration permits the computer to warn a wearer when he is on a collision course with an obstacle. It does so by telling the motor pointing most closely in the direction of the obstacle to vibrate. If the wearer is walking towards a wall, for example, the central motor vibrates softly when he comes within a couple of metres of it. If he ignores this, perhaps because he actually wants to reach the wall, the computer increases the amplitude as he closes in, giving him a good idea of exactly how far away he is. Similarly, if he is in danger of bumping, say, his right shoulder on a door frame while walking from one room to another, the right-most motor on the belt will warn him of the impending collision. And it works. When compared with navigation by white cane in one of MIT’s famously crowded hallways, it reduced blind students’ collisions with others by 86%.

The new system can, however, do more than just help someone walk around without collisions, for the belt incorporates a touchpad that is inscribed with instructions in Braille. This permits the user to program it to perform specific tasks.

For example, Dr Rus knew that blind students often struggle to find an empty seat in a crowded lecture theatre. Adding an appropriate algorithm to the computer’s software helps get around this by enabling it to recognise chairs, and also whether or not a chair is occupied. In this case, the motors are used to indicate a direction to be travelled in, rather than one to be avoided. Activating the algorithm using the touchpad causes the motor pointing most closely towards an empty chair to vibrate when the system spots one.

Good vibrations

In trials involving a room that contained an empty chair, an occupied chair and also a recycling bin, the algorithm directed the belt-wearer straight to the empty chair 80% of the time. Cane users presented with the same arrangement always found the empty chair eventually, but in doing so came into contact with objects other than their target more than five times as often as those using the camera and belt.

Whether a camera (ideally, smaller than the one in the prototype) and a belt could replace a cane completely remains to be seen. In particular, Dr Rus’s system does lack one important feature of Biggs’s innovation. A white cane not only helps a blind person to navigate, it also signals his condition to the rest of the world, allowing others to adjust their behaviour accordingly. As a supplementary aid, however, her approach seems most promising.

VRS Hosts Summer Transition Academy for Metro Atlanta

Transition Academy

On Tuesday, June 06, 2017, VRS began holding its first annual Transition Academy. The purpose of the Transition Academy is to teach the participants various skills that they can apply both in their daily lives and in the workplace. Not limited to any age group or region, the Transition Academy teaches students from all over the Metro Atlanta area. From middle school and high school, to college and beyond, anyone with a visual impairment is welcome.

From left to right, Jason's father, William and Gus

To begin, the participants gave a short introduction which told the other students their names and passions. Then they explored their own personal learning styles by taking a test that links personality traits with colors; these colors, in turn, correspond to a learning style. Afterwards, the participants divided into groups tasked with learning and performing various tasks that are important, both in the workplace and in daily life.

Gabby ( left) and Karly (right)

In the kitchen Rafa, Gabriel, and Xavier were tasked with preparing lunch for the class; a teacher gave the boys instructions, while Gabby and Karly wrote down food orders from the other participants and delivered them to the kitchen. Meanwhile, Gus and William were taught how to clean using their sense of touch and the reliable grid pattern. Next, they went outside to wash the windows with vinegar. After a demonstration to Cheyla and Maggie how to fold t-shirts, which is a skill that -in addition to being vital in the workplace- can be applied while doing laundry or organizing clothes at home. The folding team will also get to use their skills by volunteering at the Must Ministries shop in the coming weeks.

in back, Jamie and Maggie, in front, Cheyla

Finally, the reporters (Heidi, Jason, and Skylar), and authors of the Academy’s Blog, kept track of the class by taking notes and participating in the different activities. Then they selected Augustu “Gus” Pacleb as the student of the week, and Jason interviewed him. Gus attends Forsyth Central High School and, just like Heidi, he found out that his learning styles correspond to both the blue (harmonious) and green (logical) learning styles. Overall, Gus thought that his scores were accurate and he hopes that this new insight into his personality will allow him to find a job that suits his learning style, while also enabling him to work well with his future colleagues.

Jason VRS Transition Academy


Ultra-Important Facts On Ultraviolet Rays


Ultra-violet (UV) rays can damage your eyes and increase your risk of cataracts and cancers of the eye. Because UV rays can be permanently harmful, sunglasses with UV protection are recommended for everyone, but especially for those that work outside or already have existing eye problems.

While many have heard of the dangers of skin cancer, few people know that various skin cancers (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinomas, melanomas) can occur on the eyelids, on the surface of the eye and even inside of the eye. In fact, 5-10% of skin cancer affects the eyelids.  Our eyes are the only internal tissue of our body that are exposed to sunlight. Without proper sunglasses, nearly 40% of the rays get into our eyes even when we’re not directly exposed. Ocular melanoma cancer is the most common type of eye cancer in adults and can cause permanent vision loss. Around 94% of people are affected with premature aging signs near the eye regions. This is also caused by exposure to intense sun rays that make your skin dry. This affects the skin texture and makes it more prone to get wrinkles and fine lines.

For these reasons, it is essential to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays by regularly wearing protective sunglasses. Sunglasses should be 100% UV-absorbent for UVA and UVB or be labeled UV400. To provide additional UV protection, also wear a wide-brimmed hat, especially when during the mid-day sun or if you will be outdoors for a prolonged period of time.

Remember, prolonged UV exposure can occur outside, but also in tanning beds. People who are fair-skinned, Caucasians, have light-colored eyes, smoke, or have had a family history of skin cancer are particularly at risk and sensitive to UV rays.

Parents should also be extra cautious with their children’s activities such as swimming or skiing because the sun is reflected off the water, snow, or ice and heavy UV exposure can occur without even realizing it.

Regular dilated eye exams, especially in high risk patients, can provide early warnings, diagnosis, and treatment of the aforementioned eye diseases and prevent or treat these eye diseases related to UV exposure.

For more information check out: Think About Your Eyes

Sports Eye Safety

Little Hoopsters

With summer approaching, many people will be outside more often and involved in athletic activities which require extra eye protection, and the topic of Sports Eye Safety. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the number of sports-related eye injuries in emergency rooms across the U.S. has significantly increased, with over 30,000 incidents per year!

While all sports involve an increased risk of eye injury, basketball, baseball, and air/paintball guns have the highest risk. Injuries can range from less threatening problems like minor corneal abrasions or bruises on the eye to vision-threatening internal injuries such as bleeding or retinal detachment. Sports-related eye injuries are avoidable with the proper protective eye wear.

Check with your coach or your child’s coach for details on the appropriate eyewear needed. For example, athletes playing basketball, racquet sports, soccer and field hockey should wear protective eyewear with poly-carbonate lenses.

Athletes who wear contacts or glasses should also wear appropriate protective eyewear. Contacts offer no protection and glasses do not provide enough defense. Also replace eye wear when it becomes weakened or yellowed as all products do with age. Finally, as always, whenever you plan to be outside in the sunlight, be sure to wear good sunglasses or glare control shades to protect your eyes from exposure to the sun.

Join our Book Club!

VRS is exciting to announce we are starting a New Monthly Book Club!

Book Club

Do you ever find it hard to get motivated to read, or maybe you love to read but would like to interact with your friends, well here is your opportunity! VRS is starting a book club. The idea to start a book club came from one of our clients, but is open to all clients and friends of the agency. Plus we will have audio books available as well for the visually impaired or blind readers. The first monthly book club will take place on April 3 from 2-3 p. m. We will have coffee too for our coffee drinkers in the club. If you are interested please RSVP to or (770) 906-6797. Also if you have a favorite author or type of book include that in your email. We will see you in April! Happy Reading!

January Glaucoma Awareness Month


Glaucoma is a leading cause of vision loss and blindness in the United States. It is a group of eye diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve because of increased pressure from fluid that builds up inside the eye. Because glaucoma has no symptoms in its early stages, and vision that is lost cannot be restored, it is imperative that everyone has a comprehensive dilated eye exam annually. If detected early, glaucoma can usually be controlled and severe vision loss can often be prevented.

Anyone can get glaucoma, but those at higher risk include:

  • African Americans over age 40
  • Everyone over age 60 (especially Hispanics/Latinos)
  • People with a family history of the disease
  • People with past eye injuries
  • People who take steroids.

Glaucoma can impact one or both eyes; it affects peripheral vision, narrowing the field of vision and left untreated, it can cause total vision loss.

Glaucoma diseases are usually classified into two groups – open angle glaucoma (chronic glaucoma) and closed-angle glaucoma (acute glaucoma).

Either set of conditions can cause permanent damage to vision in the affected eye(s). Unfortunately, chronic glaucoma, the most common form of the disease, is largely asymptomatic until the disease has reached a significant stage.

There are a few signs one may watch out for, which may signal its onset. If the symptoms mentioned below are noticed, investigated and treated in time, it is possible to slow down and sometimes quell the progression of the disease.

Intense Pain

Severe pain in the affected eye is a typical symptom of acute closed-angle glaucoma. The affected eye begins to ache suddenly and the level of pain can be incapacitating. The eye pain is described as a heaviness/throbbing behind the eyes; the outer surface of the eye also aches at times. Most people will attempt to rub the eye or clutch it tightly when an attack occurs but this may only irritate the eye further.

Redness in Eye

Acute glaucoma eyes tend to get red and become discolored. Usually the redness is present in only one eye which distinguishes it from redress produced by other causes such as fatigue or substance abuse. With glaucoma, even the rim of the eyelid becomes red, swollen and encrusted.

Hazy vision

Those with glaucoma will often develop unclear vision with a misty haze that impedes proper sight. This usually occurs suddenly and rubbing or washing the eye is unlikely to provide much relief. In most cases, the mistiness may last anywhere between a few minutes to a couple of hours. Once experienced, these bouts of misty vision may become more and more frequent and longer. This reflects rapid deterioration of condition and calls for an immediate visit to the doctor.

Seeing Halos

A lot of people with glaucoma complain of seeing “rainbow-like” halos when looking directly at light sources. Some describe it as seeing spots or having double vision. Sources of light are not visible clearly and have halos surrounding them. Unfortunately, seeing halos around light is not something people take seriously because they think it is fairly normal. The more frequently such bouts of non-vision occur, the more eyesight is at risk. If you see halo rings around lights, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Onset of Visual Disturbance

Many people with glaucoma also suffer from visual disturbance, especially in low light. They may not be able to see objects exactly as they are, with lines and edges appearing wavy or distorted. The tendency when this happens is to pass off the disturbance as some random error of sight but as the disease progresses, this nature of visual disturbance becomes hard to ignore. It is recommended that an ophthalmologist be consulted on the earliest incidence of this problem.

Various Kinds of Eye Irritability

Those with glaucoma face a lot of discomfort in their eyes in ways unrelated to vision. For instance, apart from pain in their eye(s), the area surrounding the eye also tends to get tender and achy . The eyes may get watery often with excessive tearing, especially when eyes are under strain (like when reading, watching TV, etc.). Alternately, the eye may feel dry and gritty, causing the urge to rub and itch.

Unusual Response to Light-Based Stimuli

People with glaucoma react very unusually to light-based stimuli, especially in the later stages of the condition. They may have problems in adjusting to a dark or dim room and may also have difficulties in lighted spaces or sources of glare.


Severe headaches accompanied by eye pain and blurred vision are also typical warning signs of closed-angle glaucoma. An attack of this kind should be handled in the emergency room.

Glaucoma Treatment

Glaucoma can be treated with eye drops, pills, laser surgery, traditional surgery or a combination of these methods. The goal of any treatment is to prevent loss of vision. The good news is that glaucoma can be managed if detected early, and that with medical and/or surgical treatment, most people with glaucoma will not lose their sight.

If you have glaucoma, it is important to take your medications regularly and exactly as prescribed in order to control your eye pressure. Your eye doctor may prescribe eye drops as treatment. Since eye drops are absorbed into the bloodstream, it is important to tell your doctor about other medications you are currently taking. Ask your doctor and/or pharmacist if the medications you are taking together are safe. Some drugs can be dangerous when mixed with other medications. To minimize absorption into the bloodstream and maximize the amount of drug absorbed in the eye, close your eye for one to two minutes after administering the drops and press your index finger lightly against the inside corner of your eyelid to close the tear duct which drains into the nose. While almost all eye drops may cause an uncomfortable burning or stinging sensation at first, the discomfort should last for only a few seconds.

Sometimes, when eye drops don’t sufficiently control your eye pressure , pills may be prescribed in addition to drops. These pills, which have more systemic side effects than drops, also serve to turn down the eye’s faucet and lessen the production of fluid. These medications are usually taken from two to four times daily. It is important to share this information with all your other doctors so they can prescribe medications for you which will not cause potentially dangerous interactions.

When medications do not achieve the desired results, or have intolerable side effects, your ophthalmologist may suggest surgery.

This month is Glaucoma Awareness Month. If you suffer from glaucoma, stay informed about the latest research on the disease and its treatment through the Glaucoma Research Foundation at

12 Important Steps of Diabetic Foot Care

Consistent foot care is essential for diabetics. Diabetes can cause nerve damage, pain and numbness. Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a circulation disorder that affects blood vessels and typically strikes the veins and arteries that supply extremities and organs located below the waist. PVD decreases the amount of blood vessels. Blood vessels are also narrowed due to arteriosclerosis, the build-up of plaque inside a vessel, This decreases the amount of blood and oxygen supplied to extremities, such as the legs and feet. Clots may even develop, further restricting the affected vessel.

Because of the seriousness of these conditions, proper foot care is essential. Here are twelve steps recommended by doctors and the American Heart Association for diabetic foot care:

  1. Inspect your feet every day. Look at your bare feet for red spots, cuts, swelling, and blisters. Use a mirror to inspect the bottom of your feet or ask for someone’s assistance.
  1. Seek medical care early if you have a foot injury, an ingrown toenail or notice anything suspicious. Tell your health care provider if a foot changes color, shape, or just feels different. Numbness and tingling in your feet are other reasons to seek medical care at once.
  1. Even if you don’t notice any problems with your feet, make sure your health care provider checks your feet regularly. Your health care provider should also explain the do’s and donts’ of foot care.
  1. If you have corns or calluses, your health care provider can trim them for you. Your health care provider can also trim your toenails if you cannot do so safely.
  1. If you trim your own toenails, trim them straight across and file the edges with an emery board or nail file. Again, because nicks can easily happen from nail clippers, it may be wiser to let your physician trim your toenails.
  1. Wash your feet every day and dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes.
  1. Keep your skin soft and smooth. People with high glucose levels tend to have dry skin and less ability to fend off harmful bacteria. Rub a thin coat of skin lotion over the tops and bottoms of your feet, but not between your toes. The extra moisture there can encourage fungus to grow.
  1. Be more active. A good exercise program strengthens the heart and increases blood flow. Plan your physical activity program with your health team.
  1. Wear shoes and socks at all times and never walk barefoot, especially outside. Wear comfortable shoes that fit well and protect your feet. Check inside your shoes before wearing them. Make sure the lining is smooth and there are no objects inside. Your physician may recommend special diabetic shoes, which are often covered by Medicare.
  1. Protect your feet from hot and cold. Wear shoes at the beach or on hot pavement. Don’t put your feet into hot water. Test water before putting your feet in it and never use hot water bottles, heating pads, or electric blankets that could burn your feet without you realizing it has happened.
  1. Keep the blood flowing to your feet. Put your feet up when sitting. Wiggle your toes and move your ankles up and down for 5 minutes, two or three times a day. Don’t cross your legs for long periods of time.
  1. Because foot care is so important to diabetics, your physician may recommend a foot care specialist. Do not neglect routine visits to your podiatrist.

The most important step you can take to ensure healthy feet, however, is to take care of your diabetes. Work with your health care team to keep your blood glucose in your target range. Eat properly, exercise, and follow a consistent medicine regime. Diabetes is a long-term condition that has impacted millions. Don’t wait to begin proper foot care. Take your own health care seriously and you can minimize some diabetic complications.


Living With Diabetes and Vision Loss

VRS is pleased to announce that we have received a Grant Award from the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta to provide support and education to those individuals Living with Diabetes and Vision Loss.
Living with Diabetes and Vision Loss creates a number of life challenges and barriers to care. The inability to drive makes travelling to and from doctor’s appointments a struggle; vision loss means you may be unable to see to identify your medications or see how to test your blood sugar; preparing healthy meals becomes more difficult as one struggles to work effectively in the kitchen and trying to safely exercise is not always easy.

VRS staff instructional staff have been trained to address these and other questions you and your loved ones may have about Living with Diabetes and Vision Loss. Through our United Way grant we will be offering classes to individuals who would like to learn how to better manage their diabetes to prevent further loss of vision and strategies to help live more independently with vision loss.
Our philosophy is that education and information is the key to understanding the small changes that one can make to take control of your personal healthcare and develop new ways to live a quality life, despite these new challenges.

In a supportive environment, class participants share their stories and challenges with others who are experiencing the same thing. Ideas and Information are shared and each person gains new insight and new friends. Weekly topics may include Healthy Eating, Managing Stress and emotional Health, Medical Management and Preparing for Sick Days and other Emergencies. Each week the class prepares healthy snacks and meals together to develop safe food preparation skills. Guest Speakers bring new ideas and energy to each session.

Our 6 week classes may be supplemented by 1:1 in-home training as needed in more advanced vision rehabilitation skills and new learning will be supported through the development of a monthly Support Group focused on the needs and questions of our clients with diabetes.

VRS thanks the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta for their support and Generosity and invite anyone interested in our program to call the VRS office for more information. Our first 6-week class session is scheduled to start on Thursday, September 1, 2016. Please stay-tuned for more information.

VRS Office: 770-815-8768
Program Director: Nancy Parkin-Bashizi, M.A, COMS, CVRT

Adjusting to Vision Loss

Individuals experiencing difficulty adjusting to the changes in their vision can have one-on-one sessions or connect with peers through group meeting which are facilitated by our Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

For more information, please contact:
Gloria Fisher, L.C.S.W., Counselor or 770-432-7280 ext. 212

eye2i Support Group

Meets the first Monday of every month, Noon – 2:30
At Vision Rehabilitation Services
3830 South Cobb Drive Ste 125
Smyrna, Ga.  30080
Contact Gloria Fisher at 770-432-7280

Envision Support Group

Meets the first Tuesday of every month, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
at Arbor Terrace Multi-purpose Room
201 Crosstown Drive  2nd Floor
Peachtree City, GA  30269
Contact Audrey Demmitt, R.N. at 770-631-6455


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