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Demographic and urban–rural differences in pediatric low-vision services in China: a hospital-based study

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To identify the profile of a pediatric low-vision population and investigate the differences between low-vision services in urban and rural areas.


A retrospective study was conducted of the records of 286 consecutive children presenting at the Low Vision Clinic of the Eye and ENT Hospital of Fudan University from January 2009 to December 2018. The data retrieved included age, sex, education, family history, rural vs. urban residence, cause of visual impairment, and low-vision aids dispensed.


Of the 286 children (65.0% boys and 35.0% girls), over half (178, 62.2%) were from urban areas. The age range of the patients was 3–15 years (mean 9.54 ± 4.11). The four major causes of visual impairment were congenital cataract (70, 24.5%), optic atrophy (37, 12.9%), congenital glaucoma (34, 11.9%), and macular dystrophy (31, 10.8%). Low-vision aids were prescribed for 203 children (71.0%), with binocular telescopes (69, 25.0%) and stand magnifiers (66, 23.9%) being the most common. The urban children enjoyed higher rates of low-vision services than the rural children, with more low-vision aids (192, 94.6%) prescribed for the former.


Congenital and hereditary diseases constituted the major causes of low vision in the study population. In contrast to their urban counterparts, the rural children experienced inadequate low-vision rehabilitation. Our findings suggest that policymakers need to better address gender inequalities and urban–rural disparities in low-vision services and that the coverage of low-vision services, especially in rural areas, should be enhanced in China.

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The authors of this paper sincerely acknowledge the support from the Shanghai Science and Technology Commission (KW-201875334), the Shandong Medical and Health Science and Technology Development Program (2017WS245), and the China Disabled Persons’ Federation (CJFJRRB19-2019).

Author information

Study concept and design (Guohong Gao, Jinhui Dai, Dayong Liu, Shan Liang); data collection (Guohong Gao, Dayong Liu); analysis and interpretation of data (Leilei Zou, Zhilong Yu, Shengsheng Liu); drafting of the manuscript (Guohong Gao, Dayong Liu); critical revision of the manuscript (Shan Liang, Zhilong Yu, Shengsheng Liu, Xinyi Fu, Xiaoyan Zhao); statistical expertise (Dayong Liu); obtained funding (Guohong Gao, Jinhui Dai); administrative, technical, or material support (Dayong Liu); supervision (Jinhui Dai, Shan Liang).

Correspondence to Guohong Gao or Jinhui Dai.

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Gao, G., Liu, D., Zou, L. et al. Demographic and urban–rural differences in pediatric low-vision services in China: a hospital-based study. J Public Health (Berl.) (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10389-020-01225-y

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  • Visual impairment
  • Low vision
  • Blindness
  • Children
  • China
  • Rural
  • Urban