A hospital-based vision center set up in a rural area of China provided refraction screening and free spectacles to children, showing how such interventions are needed and how significant they can be to improve academic performance.
WHO data show that nearly half of the children with refractive error live in China. In poor rural areas, fewer than one-third of these children own or wear spectacles, mainly due to poor access to vision care services.
A vision center was established in collaboration with the local ministry of education in the hospital of the Yongshou country, a poor rural region of Western China. Previously, there was no provider of refractive services at accessible distances in the area.
All primary school children of the 31 local schools were first screened at school, and those with vision worse than 20/40 were randomly assigned to early referral to the vision center between December and February or late referral between March and June. At the vision center, they received a complete eye exam, a refraction and free spectacles. The total number of children in the two groups was 949.
At the end of the study, children were administered a mathematics test. Scores were higher in the early referral group, where children themselves reported a higher rate of spectacle ownership and wear.
“Despite the limitations, this test of a county hospital–based model of refractive service delivery shows that provision of free eyeglasses both improved children's academic performance and increased their use of eyeglasses,” the authors wrote.
They pointed out that collaboration with teachers at schools and with the local bureau of education was a strength of their study and suggested that vision centers may be an important model for China and other counties with a high prevalence of refractive error. – by Michela Cimberle
Disclosure: None of the authors reported any relevant financial disclosures.