Disparities in Eye Care Utilization Among Refugee and Migrant Populations

Transl Vis Sci Technol. 2024 Feb 1;13(2):14. doi: 10.1167/tvst.13.2.14.


Purpose: In this cross-sectional study, we examined refugee/migrant participants' health and eye care utilization compared to controls in San Diego County.

Methods: Data were collected from electronic health records (EHRs) at UCSD Health-affiliated medical centers. Through a manual review of EHRs, eligibility criteria to identify a cohort were developed. A total of 64 refugee/migrant participants and 95 control participants matched based on country of origin, age, and sex were included in the analysis. Demographic characteristics, insurance type, and vision/eye care utilization were compared between the two groups.

Results: A greater proportion of refugee/migrant participants were more likely to be enrolled in government-sponsored insurance programs, predominantly Medicaid when compared to controls (55% vs. 24%, P = < 0.01). When adjusting for age, history of ophthalmic procedure, and surgery, refugee status was associated with fewer encounters with ophthalmologists in a multivariable linear regression model (coefficient = -1.66 [95% confidence interval [CI] = -2.89 to -0.44], P = 0.009).

Conclusions: This study highlights disparities in eye care utilization for refugee/migrant populations. When compared to controls, a larger proportion of refugees/migrants had government-funded insurance, and refugee status was associated with fewer encounters with ophthalmologists. These findings underscore the need for further research on this population to better understand potential healthcare barriers these individuals may encounter.

Translational relevance: This analysis of EHR data illustrates disparities in eye care experienced by refugees/migrants, highlighting potential gaps in care in a vulnerable population.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Humans
  • Ophthalmologists*
  • Refugees*
  • Transients and Migrants*
  • United States / epidemiology