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Our History

ISPB has had a long, successful history of promoting vision health and safety, educating the public, and moving bills through the state legislature. Here are some of the most pivotal success stories.

Founded in 1916

Founded in 1916

The Illinois Society for the Prevention of Blindness was formed by a dedicated group of Illinoisans who believed that at least 50% of blindness could be prevented. The first mission of ISPB was to convince state government that the frequent blinding of newborn babies was not an uncontrollable factor in child-birth and could be prevented by administering drops of silver nitrate in the baby’s eyes. The original slogan for the non-profit group was, “No needlessly blind babies in the state of Illinois.” They began their mission by lobbying the Illinois legislature to pass a mandatory silver nitrate bill. After many years of campaigning, the ISPB convinced the Illinois legislature in 1933 to pass the bill that would prevent Ophthalmia Neonatorum. The number of casualties immediately began declining and there have been no reports of the condition since 1944.

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Trachoma

Trachoma

Trachoma had been endemic in the southern half of Illinois since the 18th century. In the 1920’s and 30’s there were trachoma wards set up at the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary for the treatment of those suffering from this blinding infection. Patients from downstate had to travel to Chicago and treatment often lasted several months. Dr. Harry S. Gradle, who worked closely with ISPB, had the idea of establishing trachoma clinics in the southern part of the state so people could receive treatment closer to home. With ISPB’s help, five clinics were established downstate. Shortly after the clinics were set up, it was…

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Glaucoma 

Glaucoma 

Detection and prevention of glaucoma was a top priority for ISPB. In the mid 1900’s, one out of every eight blind people was diagnosed with glaucoma. Because Glaucoma impacts peripheral vision it often goes undetected until significant loss has occurred. Consequently Glaucoma is often referred to as the “Sneak Thief of Sight.” However, a cure remains elusive, it can be controlled through early detection and immediate treatment so ISPB rallied to educate the public about the symptoms and the importance of screening. In the 1960’s and 70’s, ISPB collaborated with the Lion’s Club mobile glaucoma screenings in Chicago and provided free screenings at several hospitals throughout the state of Illinois.  

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Fireworks

Fireworks

The law prohibiting the purchase or use of fireworks was passed by the State Legislature in 1941. ISPB advocated for passage of this law because too many tragedies occurred at the hands of amateurs every 4th of July. In 1954, Illinois also banned the shipment of fireworks from out of state. To this day, ISPB advocates to maintain the ban on consumer fireworks when it is questioned in the state legislature.  

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Illinois Eye Bank

Illinois Eye Bank

A major achievement for ISPB was the culmination of a campaign for the establishment of the Illinois Eye Bank in 1947. Similar to the concept of blood banks, the Eye Bank collects eyes from humanitarian donors for use in corneal transplants to restore sight to people who would have otherwise gone blind. In 1975, The State Legislature passed an amendment supported by ISPB to allow Illinois drivers, who are willing to donate their eyes upon death, to express their wishes by placing an “organ donor” sticker on the back of their driver’s license. Then in 1976, newly discovered means of preserving donor eyes gave…

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Research Grants

Research Grants

  Since 1980, ISPB has annually awarded grants to support research in eye and vision health. The grant program was established “to support exploratory research studies in vision, especially as such research relates to the prevention of blindness.” Grants are awarded to medical students, residents, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, assistant professors and other junior faculty in the ophthalmology and optometry fields. A Research Committee, consisting of ISPB board members and other professionals, review and award the grants each year. The committee evaluates applications based on the validity of the hypothesis, scientific…

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Free Eye Health Curricula for Children Available

Many schools and educational facilities across the country are now closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Educators, public health and non-profit groups are looking for quality, no-cost educational materials...

Fireworks Safety and Injury Information

Every year, thousands of Americans are injured due to fireworks, specifically during the 4th of July holiday period. And, according to a recent study, “Assessment of Firework-Related Ocular Injury in the US”...

NCCVH Issues Updated National Report

As part of August’s Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month at Prevent Blindness Illinois, and as a follow-up to its 2016 publication, The National Center for Children’s Vision and...