Toward vision care for all

Dr. Ya-Ping Jin urges policy-makers to examine how their decisions can better serve all 

By Kira Vermond 

Imagine waking with eye pain, blurred vision and redness. Yet despite the discomfort, visiting an ophthalmologist or optometrist is out of the question because you can’t afford to take time off or even pay for parking. 

For those who struggle to make ends meet, routine eye care may seem out of reach. The Donald K. Johnson Eye Institute’s Dr. Ya-Ping Jin, a researcher with expertise in epidemiology, biostatistics and medicine, along with a team of UHN scientists, is uncovering how deep the problem goes – while laying the foundation for accessible, databased eye care. 

“In Canada, vision care is part of a publicly funded health-care system. However, for those aged 20 to 64, routine eye visits are not funded by any province,” says Dr. Jin. “This barrier likely contributes to our studies, which find socioeconomic status influences access to eye care.” 

For example, Dr. Jin and her team identified that the removal of routine eye-care services from provincial insurance in 2004 has meant that socially disadvantaged adults aren’t always getting the vision care they need to avoid treatable sight loss, such as the blindness caused by glaucoma. 

In another study, Dr. Jin showed that children receiving care for amblyopia, colloquially known as “lazy eye,” at Toronto’s SickKids were more likely to come from wealthier neighbourhoods. Parents with well-paying jobs and benefits encounter fewer barriers to attending multiple appointments. 

There are ways to combat these challenges though, Dr. Jin says. For example, she recommends targeting low-income neighbourhoods for glaucoma education and treatment. 

“I’m interested in health policy and the impact this has on people’s lives,” she says. 

This article originally appeared in the recent magazine Vision: A look inside the Donald K. Johnson Eye Institute.

Photo by Tim Fraser.

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