Identifying the ophthalmic needs of families living in Toronto shelters

Published:February 07, 2018DOI:



      To assess the ophthalmic needs of families with children residing in Toronto shelters.


      Cross-sectional study.


      Forty-nine families, including 86 children (age 0–16 years) and 55 adult and youth family members (AYFM) (age >16 years), randomly selected from 5 family shelters in Toronto, Ont.


      Ten families with at least 1 child aged 16 years or younger were randomly recruited from each shelter. Data on sociodemographics, medical history, ocular history, and access to eye care were collected through a structured interview. Eye examinations were performed in the shelters for all children and AYFM.


      The mean age for AYFM was 34.9 ± 9.3 years (range, 17–60 years), and the mean age for children was 6.1 ± 4.3 years (range, 1 month–16 years). Thirty-nine percent of parents reported dissatisfaction with their vision, and 6.7% of children had parents who perceived that their child had eye problems. Overall, fewer parents had accessed care for their own eye problems in the last year than for their children (parents 36.4%, children 81.8%). Examination revealed abnormal ocular findings in 47.3% of AYFM and 24.4% of children. The commonest finding in AYFM was refractive error (30.9%); among children, it was refractive errors (16.3.%) and strabismus (3.5%).


      We found that a significant percentage of families living in shelters had eye problems that required treatment. We propose a proactive approach to identify these families and their dependent children in order to expedite access to appropriate eye care in a timely fashion for this vulnerable population.



      Évaluer les besoins en ophtalmologie de familles résidant dans des refuges de Toronto.


      Étude transversale


      49 familles comptant 86 enfants (de 0 à 16 ans) et 55 adolescents et adultes (AA; âge > 16 ans), ont été sélectionnés au hasard dans 5 refuges de Toronto, en Ontario.


      Dix familles ayant au moins 1 enfant de 16 ans ou moins ont été recrutés aléatoirement dans chaque refuge. On a procédé à des entrevues structurées visant à recueillir les données sociodémographiques des participants, ainsi qu’à documenter leurs antécédents médicaux et oculaires et leur accès à des soins oculaires. Tous les participants ont subi sur place (au refuge) un examen des yeux.


      L’âge moyen des AA était de 34,9 ± 9,3 ans (de 17 à 60 ans), et celui des enfants était de 6,1 ± 4,3 ans (de 1 mois à 16 ans). Trente-neuf pourcent des parents ont signalé être insatisfaits de leur vision, et dans le cas de 6,7 % des enfants, les parents soupçonnaient des troubles visuels chez ceux-ci. Dans l’ensemble, les parents ont été moins nombreux à consulter un spécialiste des yeux pour eux-mêmes (36,4 %) que pour leurs enfants au cours de la dernière année (81,8 %). L’examen a révélé des anomalies oculaires chez 47,3 % des AA et 24,4 % des enfants. Chez les AA, il s’agissait le plus souvent d’un vice de réfraction (30,9 %) et chez les enfants, d’un vice de réfraction (16,3 %) ou de strabisme (3,5 %).


      Une proportion considérable de familles résidant dans des refuges présentaient des troubles oculaires qui nécessitaient un traitement. Nous proposons la mise en œuvre d’une démarche proactive visant à repérer ces familles, pour accélérer l’accès en temps opportun à des soins oculaires adéquats chez cette population vulnérable.
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