Brooke Krause to study cost-effective vision programs for students in Sierra Leone schools
Brooke Krause, associate professor of economics and business economics at The College of Wooster, is part of a research team that received a $1.5 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to test cost-effective methods for delivering universal vision screenings and eyeglasses to children in Sierra Leone schools. As one of the principal investigators on the project, Krause will help estimate the impact of providing eyeglasses to school-aged children on their learning and educational achievement, as well as estimate the cost of delivering universal vision screening and eyeglass provision. If the efforts prove to be effective, vision screenings and provision of eyeglasses will be integrated into national programming, she said.
Krause, who is a development economist, has a long-standing interest in research topics related to both health and education. “This project lies at the center of that intersection and has the potential to identify a solution that can improve eye health for students while also supporting students to reach their educational potential,” she said.
Students with visual impairment are less likely to advance their education and are three times more likely to fail a grade than students with normal vision, according to information on the Innovations for Poverty Action website. Uncorrected refractive error (URE)—which includes nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism and is easily corrected with eyeglasses—is the leading cause of visual impairment among children in Sierra Leone, but detection and treatment programs are not widely available.
The research team will be responsible for designing the cluster randomized control trial and the survey instruments, conducting the analysis for the impact evaluation, and writing the findings for an article to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.
To assess the impact empirically, they will collect survey data and conduct vision assessments of students at the beginning of the 2023-24 school year. Following the initial assessment, students in the treatment group who need eyeglasses will be provided with them. At the end of the school year, the researchers will conduct another survey with these same students and gather information from their educational assessments to analyze change over time.
“We will use a difference-in-differences estimation approach to estimate the causal impact of the glasses provision on educational achievement,” Krause said. “We will measure student achievement through standard local educational assessments as well as internationally recognized ones that include the Early Grade Reading Assessment and the Early Grade Math Assessment.”
They will partner with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone and three other organizations. Innovations for Poverty Action is responsible for data collection and hiring enumerators. Vision Action, an international nonprofit organization, will provide the specialist to do the vision screening and vision screening training as well as provide standard eyeglasses. DOT Glasses, a company that has designed easy-to-use, cost-effective eyeglasses, will provide those glasses for a portion of the refraction errors.
Krause plans to involve Wooster students in the project during the 2023-24 and 2024-25 academic years through the sophomore research assistant program. This project provides an opportunity for mentored undergraduate research with direct implications for national policy in Sierra Leone.
Posted in News on March 8, 2023.
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