Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Stanford University

Research at PESD

Seeing is Learning - Quality of Rural Refractionists

REAP Project

We carried out quality control testing of the accuracy of eye exams performed by rural optometrists as part of our efforts to measure the impact of correcting nearsightedness on children’s school performance in rural China.

Overall, we found rural optometrists could adequately diagnose and treat nearsightedness. However, when it came to less frequently encountered conditions like astigmatism and hyperopia, they were not as prepared.

Why? Rural optometrists in western China have little formal training. Among those enrolled in our study, fewer than one in three (28.6%) rural optometrists had attended university or received any formal professional training.

If rural optometrists do not receive proper training, they will likely overlook or misdiagnose vision problems in children who face a lifetime of academic underperformance. Given the implications for rural children’s vision health and economic potential, we believe professional training programs should be provided to local optometrists who are often the only primary eye care professionals in remote rural areas.