Children in many developing countries have poor vision. In China, poor vision accounts for nearly half of all childhood disability. China has been experiencing unprecedented economic growth over the last several decades, however, this does not necessarily translate into improvement across all domains of health. In this retrospective cohort study, investigators analyzed data from 1,951,084 children in China from 1995 to 2014 in order to examine trends in visual impairment and identify any association with economic factors. The GDP in China increased from $1263 to $7594 over the time period studied. Investigators found that after adjusting for multiple demographic characteristics, every 100% increase in GDP from 1995 to 2014 was associated with a 20% increase in the prevalence ratio of visual impairment (VI) (PR 1.20, 95% CI 1.20 to 1.21). This association between GDP increase and VI was stronger in males (PR 1.22 for males, 95% CI 1.21 to 1.23, vs. PR 1.19, 95% CI 1.18 to 1.19 for female, p<0.001). Rural areas and younger age groups were also increasingly affected during the time period studied. Geographically, more economically developed regions had higher prevalence of VI for all survey years. The results from this study suggest that China’s economic development is associated with the increase in VI in children, which has implications for global health practices and policies as China and other countries continue to develop. This study, however, is limited in that it was cross-sectional nature; the results do not establish a causal relationship.
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