There is an abundance of external factors that influence every individual’s health, wellbeing and quality of life. Collectively, these factors are known as Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) and are significant indicators of health disparities, which are often most visible in underserved or overlooked populations.
For example, minority groups account for more than half of the uninsured population in this country. Lack of or inadequate health insurance coverage results in high out-of-pocket costs and prevents people from seeking out needed healthcare. This contributes to advanced disease progression and, when it comes to vision, a higher risk for visual impairment. This can impact everything from job security to lifestyle. Further, vision issues that are not caught early on and treated properly can often lead to permanent vision loss or blindness.
Addressing SDoH is a necessary step to rectify these disparities, and innovative eye health programs can help to do so.
How Do Social Determinants Impact Vision Health Across the Lifespan?
Children & Teens
Many children with vision impairments are misdiagnosed with learning disabilities, preventing them from receiving the needed intervention and negatively impacting their long-term academic performance. This is even more common for children in low-to-moderate income families that lack access to eye care.
Catching vision issues early on is essential for children’s overall health and long-term success. If children are not reading at a proficient level by grade 3, they are four times more likely to drop out of high school and may experience an almost irreversible academic, social and economic decline that can cascade throughout their lives.
For many adults, clear vision is critical to independently completing daily tasks, such as driving a car, maintaining a stable job and caring for a family. An estimated 93 million American adults are at high risk for serious vision loss. Yet, only half have gone to an eye doctor within the past year.
Additionally, visual impairments have a long-term financial impact. The average annual salary for visually impaired adults is nearly $10,000 less than those with unimpaired vision.
Seniors are already at risk for aging-related health concerns, and impaired vision can further exacerbate and make it difficult to address health issues. Older adults are at an especially high risk of visual impairment—by age 80, more than half of all Americans either have cataracts or have had cataract surgery.
Vision care exams are not only able to diagnose vision issues, but they can also detect many health issues such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension—all of which may impact older adults at greater rates. Catching these diseases early on allows for prompt intervention and lower treatment costs.
How Do Innovative Eye Health Programs Address SDoH?
Improving access to vision care exams, especially for vulnerable populations, is the best way to prevent the long-term impacts associated with visual impairment. Vision care exams allow for early detection and intervention of over 30 chronic diseases before other systemic symptoms are noticed. Additionally, early detection and treatment can reduce the overall cost of medical care.
That’s why Versant Health partners with programs such as Vision to Learn, which helps ensure that children with visual impairments don’t slip through the cracks by providing vision care exams and corrective eyewear. Additionally, the program follows up on vision screenings that were carried out in schools and runs each case through a database to ensure that no student who requires vision care/corrective eyewear is overlooked.
That’s just one example of an eye health program pushing for impactful change in access to vision care. Another example is how Versant Health creates and supports community outreach programs, such as pop-up vision care exams at job sites and Federally Qualified Health Center clinics that allow workers to get the vision care they need without taking time away from work. Versant Health also advocates for vision care as a necessity, rather than a supplemental or voluntary benefit.
Visiting your eye care professional should be an annual occurrence since eye health is an instrumental part of maintaining overall health, wellbeing and quality of life. Versant Health is working to make that a real possibility for all communities and populations.
© 2021 Versant Health Holdco.