Vision Care Inequity:
Barriers to Eye Care
Anyone who lives with vision impairment can tell you about the profound or even debilitating impact it can have on a person’s life. It’s such a significant part of overall health and well-being, in fact, that one 1999 survey by the CDC placed blindness and vision problems among the top 10 disabilities that impact adults.
And yet, in spite of the fact modern advances in eye care have rendered most forms of vision impairment correctable, many people continue to suffer the consequences of poor vision. Understanding barriers to vision care is an essential step in improving access to eye care for the more than 1 billion people worldwide who live with correctable vision impairments.
Eye care and glasses are expensive, particularly for people without vision insurance. And even for people with vision insurance, cost can still be a prohibitive factor. This is particularly concerning given that individuals of low socioeconomic status (including many minority communities) are more likely to experience poorer health outcomes and more barriers to health care, including vision care.
Transportation is another frequently cited issue when it comes to health barriers to eye care. For example, people in rural areas may not be able to easily attend appointments with an eye care provider. Further, people of low socioeconomic status may be less likely to have their own car, or to be able to take time off of work for an appointment. One 2006 study found that among older African Americans, transportation was the most frequently cited barrier preventing access to eye care.
Trust and Communication
For many people, lack of access to eye care isn’t so much an issue of logistics or economics as it is a lack of understanding or poor relationship with eye care providers. Particularly in communities where poor medical literacy and/or language barriers are prevalent, patients may not understand the options available to them, and therefore may not make informed choices about their health.
This breakdown in communication between providers and patients can be particularly harmful when combined with lack of trust in doctors (including eye care professionals), as is often the case among marginalized groups who have historically experienced injustice or oppression at the hands of authorities. One British Medical Journal study analyzed the effects of these factors among Indigenous Australian populations, and found that culture, communication, and trust had a significant impact on patients’ access to healthcare, prevention of disease, and adoption of eye care practices.
OneSight is on a mission to help the world see better by bringing affordable vision care to those who need it most. Since 1988, we’ve reached 52+ million people worldwide, including lives served directly as well as people who now have ongoing access to vision care through permanent vision centers. Our strategy is focused on both meeting immediate needs and establishing long-term solutions, and involves a combination of charitable clinics and sustainable vision centers. Contact us for more information about how you can make a difference in ending the vision care crisis, or consider donating to support our work.