Cataract surgeries and dispensing glasses for people suffering from moderate to severe vision loss, accounting for more than 90% unmet eye needs, are cost-effective solutions for countries to improve the health and economic outlook for achieving universal health coverage and the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
A Global Eye Health Commission report, published in ‘The Lancet Global Health Journal’ earlier this week, has called for eye health to be within the primary healthcare and that the general healthcare workers should be trained in eye care because 1.1 billion are living with untreated vision impairment in 2020 and it is expected to grow to 1.8 billion by 2050, of which 108 million will be living in South Asia.
The report was authored by 73 leading experts from 25 countries, including researchers from the city-based LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI), Dr. G.N. Rao and Dr. Rohit Khanna, Dr. G.V.S Murthy from the Institute of Public Health (IIPH) and Lions Aravind Institute of Community Ophthalmology (Madurai) along with the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
It calls for quality eye care access to rural areas using technology and expanding the workforce to meet the population needs. “It is unacceptable that more than a billion people are needlessly living with treatable vision impairment,” said co-chair of The Lancet Commission and Director, International Centre for Eye Health, The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (UK) Prof. Matthew Burton.
“Treating avoidable vision impairment alongside increasing access to vision rehabilitation services and creating more inclusive environments are practical and cost-effective ways of unlocking the human potential,” said commission co-author, associate professor, The Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute (US) Dr. Bonnielin Swenor.
It is also because women and girls are more likely than men to have vision loss and less likely to receive treatment. “With investment and a co-ordinated response, we have an opportunity to help create a fairer society for future generations through improved eye health,” said commission co-chair and professor of international eye health, University of Calabar (Nigeria), Professor Hannah Faal.
The commission analysed that productivity losses from unaddressed vision impairment in people of working age in 2020 was US $411 billion globally and regionally – East Asia (US $90 billion) and South Asia (US $70 billion). Global rates of blindness and vision impairment in all ages declined by around 29% between 1990-2020, however, the progress hangs in the balance due to ageing population together with physical inactivity and poor diets.
The study was supported by grants from: The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust; Moorfields Eye Charity; NIHR Moorfields Biomedical Research Centre; The Wellcome Trust; Sightsavers; The Fred Hollows Foundation; SEVA Foundation; British Council for the Prevention of Blindness; and the Christian Blind Mission.