Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 161–174 | Cite as

Visual Health and Visual Healthcare Access in Refugees and Displaced Persons: A Systematic Review

  • Sila BalEmail author
  • Anne Duckles
  • Alison Buttenheim
Review Paper


Vision impairment is a significant global health concern. Still, there remains a gap in our knowledge of visual health in refugees. We conducted a systematic review of the distinctive eye care needs of refugees. We screened PubMed, EMBASE, and Web of Science through February 17, 2017 for studies that focused primarily on visual health in refugees. Risk of bias was assessed using the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute quality assessment tools. 26 studies were included in the final review. The prevalence of blindness ranged from 1.3 to 26.2%. Trachoma was the leading infectious cause. Only four studies assessed vision-related care. Time/location of displacement, social unrest, and sanitation impacted severity of eye disease. Refugees have unique eye care needs. Public health interventions should target eye care at every stage of displacement. Providers may use these results to inform future research and improve visual healthcare access in refugee groups.


Vision refugees Refugee eye care Blindness refugee Vision displaced persons 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Perelman School of MedicineUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.School of NursingUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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