Report by Prevent Blindness Calls Children’s Eye Health Stakeholders to Action

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NEW YORK—The National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health at Prevent Blindness (NCCVEH) recently released a report to the public centered on the vision health of school-aged children. Titled the “Children’s Vision and Eye Health: A Snapshot of Current National Issues,” the study contains an assemblage of information and survey data outlining the current landscape of children’s vision and eye health in the U.S., as well as best practices for improving it. Topics include:


Prevalence and Impact

According to the report, the most common vision disorders among U.S. children are refractive errors, including myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism. Some standout statistics include:

Among younger children (age 6 months to 72 months), 4 percent have myopia and 21 percent have hyperopia.

Among older children (age 5 to 17 years), 9 percent have myopia; 13 percent have hyperopia; and 15 percent to 28 percent have astigmatism, depending on diagnostic threshold.

Other (non-refractive) vision disorders affecting U.S. children include vision loss (3 percent), amblyopia (2 percent) and strabismus (2 percent to 4 percent).


Risk Factors


The development of vision problems in children include genetic and environmental components, such as family history, premature birth, existing vision disorders, and neurodevelopmental disorders such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and autism. However, according to the report, while some risk factors are unavoidable, the most significant preventable risk factor for visual disorders in children is maternal smoking, with children of women who smoked cigarettes during pregnancy showing higher rates of strabismus, hyperopia and astigmatism.


Access to Care

Vision-related problems shared among U.S. children are also broken down by ethnic group, with findings relating to race and socioeconomic status including the following:

White children and children from families with higher incomes are more likely to have diagnosed eye or vision disorders. African American children have lower overall health care expenditures than Caucasian children, but twice the expenditures for eye/vision-related emergency services.

More than one third of Hispanic/Latino and non-Hispanic black adolescents, and 24 percent of all adolescents, with correctable refractive error have inadequate correction.

Among children with special health care needs, an estimated 6 percent have unmet vision care needs. Overall, the economic cost of vision disorders among children amounts to $10 billion in the U.S. each year.


State-by-State Breakdown

The report concludes with a breakdown of regulations across the country and three “State System Change Snapshots” highlighting exemplary models of current state programs:

Ohio is establishing state-level surveillance of vision health at the individual and population levels by integrating health data collection (vision screenings, eye examinations, treatment outcomes) into its state immunization information system, known as ImpactSIIS. The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) has also developed a security protocol and training programs for those authorized to access the vision health module.

Massachusetts is successfully improving annual vision screening rates throughout the state with a quality improvement process implemented by the Pediatric Physicians’ Organization at Children’s Hospital (PPOCH), one of the largest pediatric primary care networks in the country.

Arizona is increasing provision of preventive health services by proposing a change in Medicaid payment policy and leveraging philanthropic support for screening in primary care settings. So far, 40 percent of Arizona children have been enrolled in health insurance through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), the state’s Medicaid agency, and a policy change provides incentive for primary care practices to purchase and use vision screening devices.


Call to Action

Finally, the report concludes by identifying parties such as doctors, parents and teachers who have the power and responsibility to change the current state of children’s vision issues. “Each of these stakeholders has a unique role to play in building and sustaining a comprehensive, effective system,” the report stated.

“Working together, they—and you—can forge a stronger vision and eyecare system, ultimately improving the health and wellbeing of all children in your state.”

For more information about the “Children’s Vision and Eye Health: A Snapshot of Current National Issues” report, visit nationalcenter.preventblindness.org.