To examine racial and ethnic differences in unmet need for vision care among children with special health care needs.
Cross-sectional data from the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs were analyzed. The analytic sample was 14 070 children with special health care needs who needed eyeglasses or vision care in the previous year. Children who did not receive all the eyeglasses or vision care they needed were considered to have unmet need for vision care.
Of the sample, 5.8%, representing approximately 198 600 children with special health care needs in the United States, had unmet need for vision care. Rates of unmet need ranged from 2.5% to 14.3% across the 7 racial and ethnic groups studied. Relative to whites, children of African American, Latino, and multiracial backgrounds had approximately twice the adjusted risk of unmet need, whereas American Indian or Alaskan Native children had a lower adjusted risk. Health care providers, school personnel, insurance coverage, and other factors also contributed to differences in the risk of unmet need, independently of child race/ethnicity.
Further research is needed to explain and address the causes of racial and ethnic differences in unmet need for vision care among children with special health care needs.