Insufficient children receive regular eye tests, insurance is crucial.

Insufficient children receive regular eye tests, insurance is crucial.

Catching Eye Issues in Children: The Need for Better Vision Screening

Children Vision Screening

Eye tests are crucial for identifying potential eye-related issues in children. However, it is disheartening to learn that more than two-thirds of kids in the United States are not receiving these tests during their regular checkups. Researchers at the University of Michigan and Duke University have found that children with Medicaid and other public health insurance are far less likely to receive vision screenings at their primary care doctor’s office. The rates are only slightly higher for children with private insurance, at 34%[^1^].

Lowest rates of eye screening were observed among uninsured children, at 18%, and those with safety net insurance provided for those with low incomes, at a 28% screening rate[^1^]. These findings shed light on the need for improvement in health care services, particularly during well-child visits and other annual checkups like school or camp physicals, which present critical opportunities for catching eye-related issues in children before they have lasting consequences on their education and lives[^1^].

Dr. Olivia Killeen, a clinical fellow in pediatric ophthalmology at Duke Health, emphasizes the significance of these checkups, stating, “These data clearly show room for improvement.” She conducted the study while serving as a National Clinician Scholar at the University of Michigan[^1^]. In collaboration with her colleagues, Dr. Killeen highlighted the importance of early detection and treatment of amblyopia, commonly known as “lazy eye,” especially for children aged 3 to 5. However, even among this age group, vision screening rates remain low[^1^].

A recent Michigan Medicine news release further illustrates the concerning statistics. Only a little over 41% of 3- to 5-year-olds with private insurance had their vision screened at their regular primary care clinic or pediatrician’s office in the last year[^1^]. The figures were even lower for children with public insurance (about 35%) and those without insurance (around 30%)[^1^]. These alarming numbers emphasize the urgent need for increased vision screening efforts across all insurance statuses.

The study also revealed disparities in prevention and early detection at primary care visits based on insurance status. Only 46% of uninsured children had a preventive health care visit with their regular provider in the last year, while for privately insured children, it was 81%, and for publicly insured children, 73%[^1^]. These disparities further hinder access to vital vision screenings and place certain children at a higher risk of undiagnosed eye conditions.

Notably, children with special health care needs, who may be eligible for full or partial health insurance coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), had very low rates of vision screening. Only 28% with public insurance, 19% with private insurance, and a mere 12% of uninsured children had their vision checked in the past year[^1^]. This finding highlights the need for tailored and comprehensive healthcare services for children with special needs.

The findings of this study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, underscore the prevailing gaps in vision screening practices during primary care visits. Parent surveys from the federally funded National Survey of Children’s Health between 2018 and 2020 served as the primary data source for this study[^1^].

To bridge these gaps and ensure better vision screening for all children, it is crucial to raise awareness among parents about the importance of regular eye exams. Healthcare providers need to make vision screening a routine part of well-child visits and other checkups, regardless of insurance status. Additionally, increasing access to affordable and comprehensive health insurance coverage can significantly contribute to improving screening rates and ensuring early detection of eye-related issues in children.

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For more information, parents can refer to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, which provides valuable resources on vision screening for children. It is crucial to address the disparities in vision screening and work collectively towards a healthier future for all children.

Source: – Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan, news release, Aug. 21, 2023

References: [^1^]: Cara Murez. “Many Kids Missing Out on Eye Exams: Study Finds rates of Vision Screening at Doctor’s Visits too low.” HealthDay Reporter. (2023). Link to Article