In a study published by JAMA Ophthalmology, the University College London Institute of Child Health, London examined the association of visual health with social determinants of general health and the association between visual health and health and social outcomes.
Blindness is known to have a broad-ranging adverse influence on affected individuals, their families, and the societies in which they live and is exemplified by its association with impaired quality of life, worse general and mental health, curtailed life chances, and increased all-cause mortality. It is unsurprising that international policies and research relating to ophthalmology and visual sciences have prioritized this end of the spectrum of impaired vision.
“We demonstrate that visual health is associated with known key social determinants of health acting independently in the axes of social differentiation captured by age, sex, ethnicity, area or community-based deprivation, and educational experience and with a trend across the full spectrum of visual acuity,” the authors write.
“We propose that the conceptual framework for thinking about vision that focuses on impairment rather than health, together with extant gaps in knowledge, are hindering the development and application of proportionate universalism to achieve higher levels of visual health and improve life chances of the whole population while simultaneously reducing the magnitude and gradient of inequalities. Evidence from other clinical disciplines supports the potential gain, with relatively little additional effort, that may be achieved with routine inclusion of visual function in individual health assessments of patients at risk for visual impairment and from routine inclusion of vision and eye health in its broadest sense in existing national and international initiatives addressing social determinants of disease and tackling health inequalities,” the study concluded.