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Alfred Vinnett, Zeshan Tariq, Jason A. Alvarez, Laura Andrews, Nneoma Okezie, Moran R. Levin, Mona A. Kaleem; Eye Disease Prevalence and VF-14 Validation Among Patients Experiencing Homelessness and Presenting for Ophthalmic Examination in Baltimore, Maryland. Trans. Vis. Sci. Tech. 2023;12(11):7. https://doi.org/10.1167/tvst.12.11.7.
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The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is projected to drive 1.5 million Americans toward homelessness, adding to the 3.5 million currently affected. Homelessness poses both socioeconomic and public health challenges because housing status is a social determinant of health. Given ophthalmic health's importance in daily functioning, we characterized ophthalmic disease and vision-related quality of life (VRQOL) among a population experiencing homelessness in Baltimore, Maryland.
Questionnaires, including a Visual Function Index-14 (VF-14) for measuring VRQOL, were administered among patients seeking eye examinations at Health Care for the Homeless (HCH) from October 2018 to March 2020.
One hundred sixty-two participants were enrolled in this study. The average age was 53 years. Participants’ most common vision concerns were blurry vision (70%) and desire for glasses (52%). Best corrected visual acuity (BCVA) measurements revealed significant vision loss (18%, P < 0.001). Physicians mostly diagnosed refractive error (77%), cataracts (36%), glaucoma/glaucoma suspect (25%), and dry eye (24%). Nearly half were referred to additional ophthalmic care (46%). VRQOL trends reflected functional vision categories (P = 0.042 and P = 0.021). The 1:1 VRQOL and BCVA comparison showed correlation (rho = −0.3, P < 0.001). Cronbach's alpha demonstrated VF-14 reliability (alpha = 0.92).
We find high ophthalmic disease prevalence within a population experiencing homelessness. Comparison to studies worldwide reveals healthcare disparities despite healthcare system differences, suggesting a need for more targeted solutions. VF-14 is valid and reliable in assessing those experiencing homelessness. Intragroup VRQOL comparisons may reveal subgroup needs. It is imperative that future studies continue monitoring those experiencing homelessness.
Validation of VF-14 will allow future studies to utilize this patient-oriented metric within populations experiencing homelessness.
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