Study shows interventions are needed to improve parental education about eye care and examination timing for their children. Photo: Getty Images. Click image to enlarge.

Timing is critical if any vision problems arise in children, especially because many are asymptomatic, making them difficult for parents and children to identify. This reinforces the obvious: the importance of children undergoing eye examinations at a young age, but instead many are not screened. In this study, researchers aimed to explore the role of parental health beliefs in parents seeking eye examinations for their children using the Health Belief Model, one of the most widely used conceptual frameworks for explaining the changing and maintenance of health-related behavior.

A total of 100 parents whose children underwent an eye examination in Israel completed a questionnaire. Results showed that only 29.6% of the parents knew that a vision screening was performed in first grade, and 10% were unsure about where to find local eye care for their kids.

When looking into parental misconceptions, 19% of the parents indicated they were concerned that their child would unnecessarily be prescribed eyeglasses, and 10% believed that wearing eyeglasses would weaken their child’s eyes.

This study shows that knowledge deficits may be an additional barrier. Only 60% of respondents knew that the vision screening conducted at school does not check all vision problems, and only 55% knew that intermittent squinting between ages one and seven is not normal.

“Moreover, only 28% of the parents knew that wearing eyeglasses under age seven—when necessary—strengthens vision,” the authors explained in their study. “Therefore, it is mandatory to carry out parental education, point out what is not normal in a child and form awareness of screening timing and results even if there are no suspicious findings.”

Lastly, various parental health beliefs regarding children’s eye examinations were found. There was a link with perceived susceptibility, perceived benefits and perceived barriers, as well as parent level of knowledge.

“The study revealed that health beliefs play an essential role in parent seeking of eye care for their children,” the authors concluded in this study. “Namely, parents will seek an eye examination for their child if they believe that their child is susceptible to vision problems, are free of misconceptions, have adequate knowledge regarding vision and eye examinations in children and are aware of available services. Thus, interventions that aim to improve parental education about eye care and examination timing, while raising awareness regarding childhood vision problems, dispelling misconceptions and providing parents with practical information regarding available services, are needed. It also seems that national public health messaging is needed to reach as many parents as possible.”

Masarwa D, Niazov Y, Natan MB, Mostovoy D. The role of parental health beliefs in seeking an eye examination for their child. BMC Ophthalmol. June 13, 2023. [Epub ahead of print].