Prevent Blindness America’s Focus on Eye Health Summit

Prevent Blindness America’s (PBA) second annual Focus on Eye Health Summit in Washington, DC concentrated on a theme very near and dear to the mission of the Vision Impact Institute – the socioeconomic impact of poor vision, concentrating on the U.S. population. PBA’s The Cost of Vision Problems, The Economic Burden of Vision Loss and Eye Disorders in the United States and their new interactive site presenting their findings, http://costofvision.preventblindness.org, not only highlight the incredible costs of poor vision in the U.S., but also the need for awareness of the public health problem that is poor vision.

The Vision Impact Institute was happy to be a part of the summit. As the Institute concentrates its resources on the global economic burden of vision problems, we are happy to see a comprehensive U.S. study that can be included in our resources. We hope to see as many great studies published in other geographies to help continue to build our resources for the community.

This study has utilized guidelines developed by Kevin Frick (et al.), one of the Vision Impact Institute’s Advisory Board members. According to the study, the U.S. incurs an annual economic burden (direct and indirect medical costs) of $139 billion dollars. Productivity loss accounts for 35% or $49 billion dollars of the total economic burden, with undiagnosed vision loss accounting for $3 billion. Eye disorders and vision loss is now one of the costliest conditions in the U.S.

The Vision Impact Institute identifies the elderly as one of four focus groups where corrective measures can dramatically impact cost containment, personal lives, and local economies. The PBA study supports this theory; the elderly (65 years and older) account for 55% of the costs of vision loss and eye disorders.

Unfortunately, individuals incur the majority of the economic burden, 52% ($71.6 billion), in the form of productivity loss and informal care. Amazingly, the U.S. government only incurs 34%, or $47.4 billion, of the total economic burden, mostly paying for direct medical costs and long-term care, the majority of these costs incurred from the Medicare population.

Uncorrected refractive error ($16.1 billion) and cataracts are the two costliest vision conditions, respectively, with undiagnosed low vision, diagnosed blindness or low vision, and visual disturbances costing $10 billion. And, the majority of vision problems are preventable.

As one of the goals of the Vision Impact Institute is to determine where information and research is lacking, PBA’s study insightfully points the community in the direction of children and the need for more data on poor vision in children. Accordingly, VisionMonday reports Hugh R. Parry’s, PBA president and CEO, thoughts on having comprehensive knowledge of poor vision’s economic affects: “Armed with [this] information, we can address the need for increased prevention, research and healthcare options.”

Knowing the impact poor vision has on economies and societies is important to effect change. Prevent Blindness America has helped this cause in publishing The Cost of Vision Problems; this study has brought awareness to the detrimental affects poor vision has on U.S. society.

The Vision Impact Institute brings knowledge and awareness to the impact of poor vision on global economies and societies. We are happy to see new research continuously being published on this topic.

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