Importance: The number of urban migrants in China is 300 million and is increasing rapidly in response to government policies. Urban migrants have poor access to health care, but little is known about rates of correction of refractive error among migrant children. This is of particular significance in light of recent evidence demonstrating the educational impact of providing children with spectacles.
Objective: To measure prevalence of spectacle need and ownership among Chinese migrant children.
Design, Setting, and Participants: Population-based, cross-sectional study among children who failed vision testing (uncorrected visual acuity ≤6/12 in either eye) between September 15 and 30, 2013, at 94 randomly selected primary schools in predominantly migrant communities in Shanghai, Suzhou, and Wuxi, China.
Main Outcomes and Measures: Refractive error by cycloplegic refraction; spectacle ownership, defined as producing glasses at school, having been told to bring them; and needing glasses, defined as uncorrected visual acuity of 6/12 or less correctable to greater than 6/12 in either eye, with myopia of −0.5 diopters (D) or less, hyperopia of +2.0 D or greater, or astigmatism of 0.75 D or greater in both eyes.
Results: Among 4409 children, 4376 (99.3%) completed vision screening (mean [SD] age, 11.0 [0.81] years; 55.3% boys; 4225 [96.5%] migrant and 151 [3.5%] local). Among 1204 children failing vision testing (total, 27.5%; 1147 migrant children [27.1%] vs 57 local children [37.7%]; P = .003), 850 (70.6%) completed refraction. Spectacle ownership in migrant children needing glasses (147 of 640 children [23.0%]) was less than among local children (12 of 34 children [35.3%]) (odds ratio = 0.55; 95% CI, 0.32-0.95; P = .03). Having uncorrected visual acuity less than 6/18 in both eyes was associated positively with baseline spectacle ownership (odds ratio = 5.73; 95% CI, 3.81-8.62; P < .001), but parental education and family wealth were not.
Conclusions and Revelance: Among urban migrant children, there was a high prevalence of need for spectacles and a very low rate of spectacle ownership. Spectacle distribution programs are needed specifically targeting migrant children.