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Rebecca Russ, Michael Rothschild, Jinan Saaddine, Lindsay Collin, Danny Haddad; Eye health and access to eye care among migrant farmworkers in Georgia. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2015;56(7 ):1380.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Little is known about vision loss and eye health safety in migrant farmworkers in the United States. The purpose of this study was to assess risk factors for eye diseases, visual impairment and other eye symptoms, use of protective eyewear, and access to eye care among migrant farmworkers.
A cross-sectional study was performed with survey questions from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). Participants (n=162) were migrant farmworkers 18+ years working in agricultural camps throughout Lowndes County, Georgia, recruited from a primary care clinic. Outcome measures included risk factors for eye diseases, visual impairment, eye discomfort, eye injury, and access to eye care. SAS software was used to analyze frequency distributions and perform chi-square test for associations.
Mean age was 32.2 ±10.5 years, 81.5% were male, and 91.4% were Spanish-speaking. One-third (34.0%) had ever-smoked and 25.2% are current smokers, 8.3% reported having diabetes, and 80.9% reported never or rarely using protective eyewear when working in agriculture. 5.7% and 8.0% reported difficulty with far and near vision. In all, 8.0% reported having an eye injury at their work place, which caused them to lose at least one day of work, and 16.7% reported moderate to severe eye irritation. 46.6% reported never having had their eyes examined by a doctor, while 32.9% report their last eye exam was two or more years ago. Of those with diabetes, 33.3% have never seen an eye doctor. The most common reasons for not having an eye exam included cost and not wanting to miss work. 77.2% did not have general health insurance, and 92.6% did not have eye insurance. One-fifth (19.9%) were unable to afford glasses. Odds of injury in those seen by an eye doctor within two years was 2.9 times the odds in those unseen (95% CI 0.87-9.53, p=0.07).
This study provides an important assessment of eye health in an understudied and largely underserved population. Despite multiple risk factors and a substantial prevalence of visual impairment, eye irritation, and eye injury, 79.5% of migrant farmworkers have not seen an eye doctor within the past two-years. Access to eye care is greatly limited by affordability and lack of insurance. Concerted efforts are needed to improve understanding, detection, treatment, and prevention of eye disease and injuries in migrant farmworkers.
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