Objective: To analyze the cost-effectiveness of a visual screening program for primary school children in southern Thailand.
Material and method: The visual acuity of 1900 primary school children from 11 schools in southern Thailand was assessed using the Snellen chart, Hirschberg test, an eye examination by penlight, and observation of the red reflex by direct ophthalmoscope, between April 2006 and March 2007. Children with visual acuity of < 20/40 or an abnormal observation in either eye were referred for further eye examination and refraction measurement, at which time they were categorized, according to the severity of the eye condition(s). A cost analysis was then performed for various severity-of-condition groupings.
Results: One hundred sixty eight children (8.8%) were found with referable problems, of which 122 parents signed a consent formforfurther testing. The mean age was 8.7 years (range 6-12 years). One hundred seven of the 122 subjects (87.7%) were considered to have a refractive error with or without one or more other eye conditions. The mean direct cost for visual screening by the assistant researcher, not including project management and traveling expenses, was 14.9 Baht per student (approximately 0.5 USD, 0.3 Euro). For nationwide implementation, the per head expenditure for children with treatable problems would be 1018.4 Baht if children with mild, moderate and severe abnormal eye conditions were targeted, and increased to 2270.1 Baht if only children with moderate and severe conditions were targeted
Conclusion: The results of the present study indicate that this visual screening program is efficient and useful for preliminary school children in Thailand.