85% of Shanghai migrant children in need of glasses go without

Children of migrant workers with visual impairments that require glasses in Shanghai often go without, a study of almost 10,000 children at Shanghai schools found.

Researchers from the Shanghai Eye Disease Prevention and Treatment Center, collected a random sample of 9,512 children aged between 9-12 from 11 Shanghai schools and tested their vision.

The children all came from migrant parents, adults who move from rural areas in China to large cities like Shanghai seeking better work opportunities and higher pay.

They are often of a lower socio-economic bracket and, because of their migrant status, do not gain many social benefits which are reserved only for a city’s residents.  In many cases, this includes healthcare.

Out of the migrant children tested, only 15.5% of those requiring corrective lenses had them, with 85% of those found with vision problems not having access to glasses.

Of those who had glasses – 26.5% were wearing the wrong prescription.

Problems with the refractive lens was the most prevalent, making up 89.48% of the cases found.

Interestingly, the study concluded that migrant children were at the lowest risk for developing near-sightedness, a condition referred to as myopia.

Chances of developing myopia increase with outdoor activities and intensive study sessions.

Because migrant children live in cities where there is less open space for outdoor activities, they are less-likely to develop the disorder than their rural counterparts.   And with migrant workers living on low income, they often cannot afford tutors for their children – a common practice among Shanghai’s middle-class.

“As a result, the children of migrant workers study less intensely, which prevents and slows the development of myopia, and leads to a lower rate of visual impairment,” the study said.

It’s the first time research in China has collected data on this specific group. The scientists aimed were to offer information that would help organizations prioritize high risk groups.

“Accurate information on the prevalence and causes of visual impairment in children may help health organizations prioritize resources and develop appropriate policies on human resources and infrastructure,” the study, Prevalence and causes of visual impairment and rate of wearing spectacles in schools for children of migrant workers in Shanghai, China, said.

“Such information may also facilitate development of screening programs to identify people at an increased risk for eye diseases.”

It was published online at BioMed Center.