FEB 20, 2023
Comprehensive Ophthalmology, Pediatric Ophth/Strabismus
Investigators set out to assess the geographical distribution (number and location) of pediatric ophthalmologists in the US in relation to population demographic characteristics.
This cross-sectional study used public membership databases from the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS) to identify US pediatric ophthalmologist distribution as of March 2022. There were 1056 pediatric ophthalmologists identified from the self-reported “Find an Ophthalmologist” database on the AAO website and the “Find a Doctor” database on the AAPOS website.
Four US states (New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont) and 90% of counties had no pediatric ophthalmologists; an additional 4.5% of counties had only 1 pediatric ophthalmologist. The greatest number of pediatric ophthalmologists was reported in the 30 most populous counties. The prevalence of pediatric ophthalmologists was found to be 3.2 per million persons overall and 12.7 per million persons aged <19 years. Counties with no pediatric ophthalmologists were likely to have more household members aged <19 years without health insurance, greater numbers of people with no internet access, and lower median family income.
While there may be a disparity in access to pediatric ophthalmologists in the US, the methodology used by the authors does not warrant the broad conclusions made in the study. The authors base the conclusions and findings of this cross-sectional study from self-reported members in the “Find a Doctor” tool on the AAPOS website and the “Find an Ophthalmologist” tool on the AAO website. The number of states and counties reported to have no pediatric ophthalmologists is not correct, and thus the table which contains a statistical analysis of the socioeconomic impact of counties with no pediatric ophthalmologists vs counties with ≥1 pediatric ophthalmologists should be reconsidered, given the limitations of these public databases.
The authors reported geographic and socioeconomic disparities in pediatric ophthalmology care in the United States. However, to have a more meaningful conversation about the impact of socioeconomic disparities on access to pediatric ophthalmologists, an additional study may be needed in the future to present a more accurate picture of demographic characteristics and physician geographic distribution.
Financial disclosures: Dr. Jennifer Galvin discloses no financial relationships.