Background: The detection and correction of refractive errors is one of the priorities of the World Health Organization Initiative Vision 2020.
Objectives: To determine the factors related to a child having an ocular abnormality (poor vision, refractive error or other abnormality) among schoolchildren in northern Israel.
Methods: A cross-sectional population-based study was conducted among 2113 students aged 6-7 and 13-14 years old in 70 schools in northern Israel. Medical examination included vision history, clinical eye examination and vision testing. If a parent’s informed consent was available, eye drops (cycloplegia) were delivered for fundus and retinoscopy testing. An ophthalmologist was asked to determine the need for the child’s referral for further diagnostic procedures, treatment and/or follow-up. Multivariate analysis was limited to 1708 children, using data pertaining to the ophthalmologist’s decision regarding referral, as well as vision and retinoscopy results.
Results: Vision and/or ocular abnormality was prevalent in 21.5% (95% confidence interval 17.4–26.6%), predominantly among 13-14 year olds and Jewish children. Abnormal clinical findings were found in 5.7% of the students. Retinoscopy showed a higher prevalence of hypermetropia among 6-7 year olds and a higher prevalence of myopia and astigmatism among the 13-14 year olds. The multivariate analysis suggests an independent effect of retinoscopy abnormality (odds ratio = 3.85), vision abnormality (OR = 2.42), Jewish ethnicity (OR = 1.62) and 13-14 year old age group (OR = 1.26) on the ophthalmologist’s referral decision.
Conclusions: Vision and/or ocular abnormality is an important health problem among schoolchildren in northern Israel. The independent effect of ethnicity and age on the ophthalmologist’s referral decision should be further explored.