World Sight Day 2014: Implementing Simple and Accessible Solutions to Improve Sight

On October 9th, World Sight Day (supported by the World Health Organization) will take place across the globe. World Sight Day is essential because it focuses on the impact of impaired vision, and the benefit of visual correction. I believe events like this are important to demonstrate to policy leaders the extent of the problem. Direct and obvious consequences of vision impairment are huge, but this is only the tip of the iceberg.  The full scope of poor vision and its socio-economic effects are astonishing. Poor vision contributes to cars accidents, falls and depression in aging adults, loss of productivity among workers, academic difficulties and juvenile delinquency in children and a lifetime of poor quality of life.

It bears repeating that poor vision remains the number one physical impairment worldwide, affecting 4.2 billion people – of whom 2.5 billion do NOT benefit from corrective solution. Yet, means necessary to correct most eye conditions and ultimately improve the well-being of millions of people are simple, accessible, and proven.

The Vision Impact Institute, along with several long-standing NGOs, encourages simple and effective solutions to improve eye care worldwide. These include:

  • Regular eye exams. The eye continues to grow until age 7. 4% of children are affected by undetected amblyopia (lazy eye), which can have a lifelong impact on income.
  • Prevention campaigns. Thanks to innovative treatments, universal accessibility, patient compliance and prescription medications, the rate of blindness in Israel has dropped from 33.8 cases per 100,000 in 1999 to 14.8 in 2010. We hope to see this success replicated in many other countries.
  • Development of eye care professionals (ECPs). ECPs per habitant vary widely by country. Switzerland: 60 per 100,000 habitants, USA: 40, Poland: 20, India: 6. Africa has only1,900 ophthalmologists for 960 billion people.

Even more interesting: the cost-benefit analysis of good vision remains largely ignored. The global cost of poor vision is not yet fully known. This is why the Vision Impact Institute has curated a database of over 100 peer-reviewed reports and studies that demonstrate the global economic impact of vision impairment in four major categories: children, elderly, workers and drivers. Here are just three significant examples:

At the Vision Impact Institute, we believe we could do much better in raising awareness about the socio-economic impact of vision impairment due to Uncorrected Refractive Error, and about the benefits of visual correction. So, please, continue to send us figures, peer-reviewed reports, and studies on this crucial subject. Particularly in these hard economic times, cost-benefit analysis can save a lot of money for all countries.

Jean-Felix Biosse Duplan

President of the Vision Impact Institute