The paper reports the findings of the British Childhood Vision Impairment and Blindness study (BCVISG) which relied on ophthalmologists and paediatricians across the UK’s four nations reporting newly diagnosed children with VI/SVIBL through the British Ophthalmological Study Unit (BOSU) and the equivalent national paediatric surveillance unit (BPSU).
This is the first national study anywhere in the world of the epidemiology of all-cause full-spectrum childhood vision impairment (ranging from vision impairment to blindness; VI/SVIBL in WHO terminology). It provides contemporary data on incidence, underlying conditions, mortality and current and emerging influences on childhood visual disability. As the Editorial on the paper in The Lancet Adolescent Child Health noted, the study addresses a key global health evidence gap.
The findings demonstrate the importance of childhood visual disability as a key ‘sentinel’ population health indicator, for example through the increased associated mortality rate. The findings identify that children newly diagnosed with VI/SVIBL are an increasingly complex group, both clinically and aetiologically. Childhood visual disability also continues to disproportionately affect those from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds as well those from any ethnic group other than White.
Finally, the majority of children have conditions that are currently not amenable to prevention or treatment; whilst this demonstrates that preventable or treatable conditions are being well addressed by the current provision, it also shows that there remains much work to be done, in particular in relation to cerebral visual impairment, if the burden of childhood disabilities is to be reduced. This population, therefore, has significant healthcare needs which require effective multi-disciplinary clinical care and interventional research.
It is hoped the study will improve attention to childhood visual disability in the broader context of child health and inform the provision of child health and eye care services and planning of interventional research.