A new analysis of the 2018 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey indicated that adults with visual impairments reported having lower access to and use of health care than those without impairments.
The results focused specifically on a lower prevalence of having health insurance coverage, a regular health care provider, and receiving dental care, as well as a higher prevalence of having non-medical health care needs. satisfied because of the cost over the past year.
“These findings suggest that people with low vision face greater barriers to accessing and using health care than those without,” wrote study author Qi Cheng, PhD, MPH, Division of Human Development and Disability, National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The results of our analysis can contribute to a better understanding of these barriers.”
Data from 2010 suggests that approximately 4 million adults in the United States aged 40 or older had impaired vision, with this number expected to increase with an aging population and an increase in chronic diseases leading to visual impairment. Previous studies of people with visual impairment often focus on access to and use of vision care, but there remains a need to better understand how they use general health care services.
Citing gaps in understanding this access and access disparities, the study sought to describe prevalence estimates of various measures of access to and use of general health care among American adults with and without disabilities. visual. It analyzed data on adults aged 18 or older who participated in the 2018 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
Self-reported visual impairment was characterized by a positive response to the question “Are you blind or do you have difficulty seeing, even when wearing glasses?” Those who answered “don’t know/not sure” or “refused” or who had mission data were excluded from the study.
The survey also assessed access to health care over the past year, with measures such as health insurance coverage, a usual health care provider, or unmet health care needs in cost reason. Next, healthcare utilization was measured by 2 variables, including a routine check-up and a visit to the dentist.
Of the adults surveyed (n=437,436), a total of 23,545 reported having visual impairment and the weighted prevalence of visual impairment was 5.3% (95% CI, 5.1% – 5.4 %). Respondents most likely to report visual impairment were ages 45 and older, female, Black Hispanic, non-Hispanic, and living in low-income households.
Additionally, compared to those without visual impairment, those with visual impairment had a higher percentage of fair or poor general health, currently smoked cigarettes, and were not physically active in their leisure time. Having ≥ 1 disability was reported by a higher proportion of those with visual impairment (68.2%), compared to those without visual impairment (23.2%).
Additionally, measures of health care access differed by visual impairment status, according to the investigators. Compared to adults without visual impairment, those who reported visual impairment had a lower prevalence of having health insurance coverage (80.6% vs. 87.6%), a usual health care provider (71 .9% versus 75.7%) and a higher prevalence of reporting cost as a reason for unmet health care need (29.2% versus 12.6%).
Cheng and colleagues found no difference in receiving a routine health check in the past year between respondents with and without visual impairment (75.6% vs. 75.2%). However, about half of adults with visual impairment (52.9%) reported having had a visit to the dentist in the previous year, which was lower than those without visual impairment (67.2%).
“Our study considered broad associations, while future studies may examine how specific factors interact with the characteristics of visually impaired people,” Cheng added. “Understanding how these factors are associated with barriers to accessing and using health and dental care among people with visual impairment requires further study.”
The study, “Healthcare Access and Utilization in Adults with and without Visual Impairment: A Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2018,” was published in Prevention of chronic diseases.
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