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Benjamin Crock, Grant Russell, I-Hao Cheng; Investigating the eye health of refugees in South-East Melbourne. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2018;59(9):4091.
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Although it is known that refugees have higher prevalence of vision loss and ocular diseases in countries of origin and transit, more targeted research needs to be conducted to establish the picture of refugee eye health in countries of tertiary resettlement, such as Australia. We performed a retrospective, observational cohort study of the outpatient clinic of the major ophthalmology service in Melbourne’s south east, to assess the differences in demographics and prevalence of low vision and ocular morbidities between Australian-born and refugee Australians. We hoped that this study would give us an initial view of refugee eye health in Melbourne and Australia, and provide a framework for future research in the area.
We conducted a retrospective cohort study of attendees of Monash Health’s ophthalmology outpatient clinic between 2011 and 2015 inclusive. First, we determined Australian-born and refugee cohorts using country of birth as a proxy measure for refugee status. We then conducted a case note audit to extract a number of key variables for both cohorts: demographic data, presence of visual impairment, and common ocular diagnoses. These outcomes were compared between cohorts using odds ratios; logistic regression was then performed using SPSS to correct for demographic differences between the two cohorts.
Data from 306 refugee patients and 547 Australian-born patients showed refugee patients were younger (mean difference 6.35 years (p<0.001)), more likely to be male (OR 1.74, 95%CI 1.31-2.31), non-smokers (OR 0.54, 95%CI 0.40-0.74), and of low socio-economic status (OR 3.18, 95%CI 2.30-4.41). Multivariate analyses showed that refugee cohort had a higher prevalence of cataract (OR 1.69, 95%CI 1.21-1.97)and visual impairment from any cause (OR 1.89, 95%CI 1.07-2.70). There were no other statistically significant differences between the cohorts.
Our findings show that the in Australia, refugee status is likely to be an independent risk factor for visual impairment and cataract. These results are not generalisable to all of Australia however, and we recommend further research be conducted in different healthcare and geographic settings to obtain a more complete picture of refugee eye health in Australia. Further international research could corroborate and expand on these findings as being applicable to refugee experiences in other countries of resettlement
This is an abstract that was submitted for the 2018 ARVO Annual Meeting, held in Honolulu, Hawaii, April 29 - May 3, 2018.
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