Vision and hearing problems in children are linked to a number of social and public health issues, including poor academic performance, and low-income children are often more susceptible to these issues. The Network was recently contacted by a public health practitioner looking for research on vision and hearing problems in low-income children, and access to screening and other services.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, 50 percent of poor children have vision impairment that interferes with their academic performance – that’s two times the normal rate. Some reasons for this disparity include poorer nutrition and medical care for low-income mothers, leading to a less advantageous prenatal environment. Another factor is low-quality child care, in which children may be exposed to large amounts of television. This is especially problematic where class and race intersect: 42 percent of black fourth graders watch six hours or more of television a day, compared to 13 percent of white fourth graders.
Low-income children also suffer from hearing difficulties at a higher rate – untreated ear infections are thought to be the culprit. Ear infections can be treated effectively and easily, but low-income children are less likely to have access to proper pediatric care.
Children enrolled in Medicaid – low-income children – are entitled to a comprehensive array of preventative and ameliorative care through the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit. The Network provided the requestor with the Survey of Medicaid Managed Care Contracts: EPSDT Vision and Hearing Services, which looks at the contracts governing state Medicaid agencies’ relationships with managed care entities and documents the extent to which the contracts address children’s hearing and vision services and how these services are monitored.
More information is also available via a recording of the Network webinar, Hearing and Vision Services for Children: Efforts to Ensure Broad Implementation through Medicaid. In the webinar, Network attorneys Jane Perkins and Sarah Somers provide an overview of the issue of hearing and vision problems in youth and discuss in more detail the results of the before mentioned survey.
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