Preschoolers With Vision Problems on the Rise in America

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The number of preschoolers in America who can’t even see the lesson board at school is on the rise. Worse, uncorrected visual impairments among preschoolers are expected to balloon at least through 2060.

While the percentage of white children with uncorrected vision problems is expected to go down, it is expected to skyrocket for Hispanic white children and African American children.

Credit: US Department of Education/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

In a paper published in JAMA Ophthalmology, researchers from the University of Southern California predicted that the number of children in the U.S. between the ages of 3 to 5 with visual impairments will explode by 26 percent by 2060.

In 2015, 174,000 preschoolers experienced uncorrected vision impairments, according to the researchers. Most easily could have had their vision corrected with eyeglasses, the researchers said. Of that number, 65,942 were Hispanic white children.

While the number of non-Hispanic white children with uncorrected vision problems is projected to go down 21 percent by 2060, for multiracial American children the problem is expected to skyrocket an estimated 137 percent.

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The researchers arrived at their conclusions after combing through surveillance data gathered from previous research. These include the Multi-Ethnic Pediatric Eye Disease Study (MEPEDS) and the Baltimore Pediatric Eye Disease Study (BPEDS). Together, they enrolled just under 12,000 children ages 6 months to 6 years.

The states most affected by the problem are among the nation’s most populous: Texas, Florida and California.

“The high prevalence of visual impairment among Hispanic white, African American, and multiracial children is of particular concern, because children of these groups were shown to receive less vision care than non-Hispanic white children,” the researchers cautioned.

Credit: Seattle City Council/Flickr, CC0 1.0

“Data from the National Health Interview Survey indicated that among children aged 6 to 17 years, Hispanic Children and African American children were more than 30 percent less likely to have received eye care than non-Hispanic/nonblack children,” the authors noted.

This, despite age, sex, family income, health insurance or receipt of well-child care.

Common sense tells you a child can’t learn if he or she can’t see properly. That such high numbers of children in America in these critical years of development may be experiencing learning problems, simply because they don’t have the eyeglasses they need, is a public health issue.

That is how the researchers framed their findings. “A coordinated surveillance system is needed to continuously monitor the effect of preschool vision impairment on the national, state, and local levels over time.”

They said that while some regions may have larger challenges than others based on demographics, “vision screening in preschool age and follow-up care will have a significant, prolonged effect on visual function and academic and social achievements and there should be recommended for all children.”

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A professional journalist nearly 30 years, David Heitz started his career at the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa before moving to Los Angeles. He led the Glendale News-Press to best small daily newspaper in the state (CNPA) as managing editor and also worked as executive news editor of the Press-Telegram. He worked briefly as deputy news editor of the Detroit News before returning to the Quad-Cities, where he has worked as a freelance medical writer since 2012 for several national websites. He recently purchased his childhood home and says he truly is “living the dream.”