Context: Rural residents are more likely to be uninsured and have low income.
Purpose: To determine if rural residents in Arkansas have decreased access to eye care services and use them less frequently than urban residents.
Methods: Data from the 2006 Visual Impairment and Access to Eye Care Module from the Arkansas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) were used in the analysis. Adults age 40 years and older were included (n = 4,289). Results were weighted to reflect the age, race, and gender distribution of the population of Arkansas. Multiple logistic regression was used to adjust for demographic differences between rural and urban populations.
Findings: Significantly fewer rural residents (45%) reported having insurance coverage for eye care services compared with residents living in urban areas (55%). Rural residents were less likely (45%) than urban residents (49%) to have had a dilated eye exam within the past year. Among residents aged 40-64, those from rural areas were more likely than their urban counterparts to report cost/lack of insurance as the main reason for not having a recent eye care visit.
Conclusions: In 2006, rates of eye care insurance coverage were significantly lower for rural residents while use of eye care services differed slightly between rural and urban residents. Rural residents in Arkansas age 40-64 would benefit from having increased access to eye care insurance and/or low cost eye care services.