Economic evaluations of vision screening to detect amblyopia and refractive errors in children: a systematic review Academic Article uri icon

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  • Objective

    To synthesize and appraise economic evaluations of vision screening to detect vision impairment in children.


    Literature searches were conducted on seven electronic databases, grey literature, and websites of agencies conducting health technology assessments. Studies were included if they (1) were full, comparative economic evaluations that used cost-utility, cost-benefit, cost-effectiveness, cost-consequence, or cost-analysis methods; (2) described screening services designed to detect amblyopia, strabismus, or uncorrected refractive errors in children under 6 years of age; and (3) published after 1994. High-quality studies were synthesized descriptively. Currencies were reported in 2019 Canadian dollars. Quality was assessed with the Pediatric Quality Appraisal Questionnaire (PQAQ).


    Vision screening services were conducted by paid staff, volunteers, or health care professionals in schools or clinics. Thirteen studies were published from five countries: China (n = 1), United States (n = 4), United Kingdom (n = 1), Canada (n = 1), and Germany (n = 6). Analytical techniques included cost-utility/cost-effectiveness combination (n = 2), cost-effectiveness analysis (n = 7), cost-utility analysis (n = 1), cost-benefit analysis (n = 1), cost-consequence analysis (n = 1), and cost analysis (n = 1). Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios ranged from C$1,056 to C$151,274 per additional case detected/prevented and from C$9,429 to C$30,254,703 per additional QALY gained, depending on the type of screening service and comparator. Six studies were determined to be of high quality.


    Vision screening to detect amblyopia for young children may be cost-effective compared with no screening if amblyopia reduced quality of life. Studies varied significantly in the type of screening services and comparators used. Methodological limitations were common. Future studies would be aided immensely by prospective studies on the impact of amblyopia on the health-related quality of life of young children and guidelines on the effective conduct of vision screening.


  • Asare, Afua O
  • Wong, Agnes MF
  • Maurer, Daphne
  • Kulandaivelu, Yalinie
  • Saunders, Natasha
  • Ungar, Wendy J

publication date

  • April 2022