Current Vision Screening Practices across Canada, by Prov/Terr, as of January 2013

5.4.1 Current Vision Screening Practices across Canada, by Prov/Terr, as of January 2013
  • Universal Vision Screening
  • Other/Voluntary (Non-Universal) Screening
British Columbia
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Northwest Territories
Prince Edward Island

Map used with permission from Guttmann, A., Gandhi, S., Hanvey, Li, P., Barwick, M., Cohen, E., Glazer, S., Reisman, J. & Brownell, M. (2017). Primary Health Care Services for Children and Youth in Canada: Access, Quality and Structure. In The Health of Canada’s Children and Youth: A CICH Profile. Retrieved from -accessed July 24, 2017.

Click here to see how the data was gathered.

Seven of the 13 Canadian provinces/territories have public health-funded vision screening programs – specifically Newfoundland & Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. In general, public health nurses provide these programs and the types of exams and frequency of exams tend to vary. Québec, Ontario and Nunavut have voluntary (non-universal) screening either during routine primary care visits or by public health/primary care nurses in more remote locations. Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario have launched the Eye-See-Eye-Learn (ESEL).

This program is prevention-based, focuses on early detection and encourages parents to have kindergarten-aged children undergo a comprehensive eye exam prior to starting or during their first year of school. Other provinces, in addition to their existing screening programs, provide optometric coverage for comprehensive eye exams, complete or partial assessment, diagnostic and treatment services among children and youth up to 17 years of age. The types of coverage and frequency of services varies across the country.

This variation in vision screening practices across Canada may be a result of a lack of strong evidence on the impact of screening on the prevalence of amblyopia in screened versus unscreened populations and the lack of a system to monitor outcomes of children with amblyopia. 1, 2

For more complete information about vision screening across Canada,
click here.

1Institute of Health Economics. The safety and effectiveness of preschool vision screening. Edmonton AB: Institute of Health Economics; 2012
2Mema SC, McIntyre L, Musto R. Childhood vision screening in Canada: Public health evidence and practice. Canadian Journal of Public Health 2012;103(1):40-5.


It is estimated that 5% -10% of preschoolers are expected to have vision difficulties that may lead to poor development of visual acuity, and affect educational and social development. Guidelines recommend that all children between the ages of 3 and 5 years have vision screening.3 Since screening services are not publically funded across Canada, children with potential vision problems may not be identified and offered appropriate treatment.

3Chou R, Dana T, Bougatsos C. Screening for Visual Impairment in Children Ages 1–5 Years: Systematic Review to Update the 2004 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation. Evidence Synthesis No. 81. AHRQ Publication No. 11-05151-EF-1. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; February 2011.