A vision screening program identified a third of students screened as needing referral to an eye care professional, with higher referral rates for children in materially deprived neighborhoods, according to research published in the Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology.
Researchers conducted a study of 1127 children (mean age 5.11 years) from 41 schools to assess vision screening results, identify demographic factors associated with those results, and identify potential barriers to care. The team obtained follow-up data through a phone call placed between 1 and 1.5 years following the screening. During the conversation, investigators determined whether the children had a visit with an optometrist, whether glasses were prescribed, and patient-reported barriers to care.
A group of 92 students who were referred to eye care providers and a control group consisting of 66 students who passed the screening agreed to participate in the study. Among these participants, 69.6% (n=64) of the referral group sought optometric care, and 34.4% (n=22) were prescribed glasses.
Researchers noted a significant association between referral status and living in materially and socially deprived areas (P =.001 and P =.006, respectively). Those considered to be materially deprived were more likely to be prescribed glasses (P =.019), according to the report.
Overall, participants reported a lack of insurance coverage, COVID-19-related concerns, and scheduling conflicts as the most common barriers to accessing eye care.
“Many causes of visual impairment in children can be diagnosed and treated with full optometry or ophthalmology examination,” according to the investigators. “Despite this, children living in less resource-advantaged communities may have difficulty accessing eye care services because of factors such as socioeconomic status.”
Study limitations include reliance on self-reporting, a high loss to follow-up, and limitations on vision screenings resulting from the pandemic.
Wang P, Bianchet S, Carter M, Hopman W, Law C. Utilization and barriers to eye care services following school-wide implementation of pediatric vision screening. Can J Ophthalmol. Published online May 4, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.jcjo.2022.04.009