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Utilization and barriers to eye care following school-wide pediatric vision screening

      Abstract

      Objective

      In August 2018, Ontario introduced the Child Visual Health and Vision Screening Protocol outlining school-based senior kindergarten (aged 4–6 years) vision screening. We determine the prevalence of children at risk based on screening in an Ontario community and follow up to determine resource utilization after screening.

      Methods

      Vision screening data (HOTV, Randot, Autorefractor) from 41 schools (1127 children) were collected for the 2018–2019 and 2019–2020 school years. Phone follow-up was conducted 1–1.5 years after screening to determine whether an optometry visit occurred, if glasses were prescribed, and potential barriers to accessing eye care. Independent t tests were used to compare time to follow-up between groups, and χ2 testing was used for associations between material and social deprivation.

      Results

      Overall screening resulted in a 32.2% referral rate within our region. Of the referred children who responded, the rate of seeking out eye care was 69.9% (n = 64), and 65.2% of these visits were prompted specifically by vision screening, and 34.4% of referred children respondents were prescribed glasses. There was a significant relationship between receiving a referral and living in a more materially deprived (p = 0.001) and a more socially deprived area (p = 0.006). The most frequently reported barriers were related to insufficient insurance coverage for eye care or glasses, COVID-19-related difficulties, and scheduling conflicts.

      Conclusion

      Our vision screening program identified and referred more than one third of children screened for follow-up eye examinations, with children in more deprived neighbourhoods being more frequently referred. Around two thirds of referred children sought care, and one third were prescribed glasses in the follow-up sample.
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