A new Lancet Global Health report has found preventable sight loss cost the global economy USD$411 billion in 2020 due to lost employment, with the greatest cost in East Asia (US $90 billion) and South Asia (US $70 billion).
The report, which examines new and existing research in eye health, was supported by 73 experts, including three from The Fred Hollows Foundation.
The report also highlights gender and socioeconomic disadvantage. For every 100 men living with blindness worldwide, there are 108 women affected. Much of this gender imbalance is due to socioeconomic factors, such as reduced access to care.
The Fred Hollows Foundation’s Head of Public Policy and Advocacy Brandon Ah Tong, one of the report’s expert consultants, said the research underscores the role of good vision in creating a more inclusive society.
“Most people don’t realise just how important eye health is at giving people the ability to work, go to school, and lift families out of poverty – particularly in agricultural societies where life revolves around hands-on labour,” Mr Ah Tong said.
This research emphasises the socioeconomic benefits of good vision in enabling women and girls to play a vital role in society, support their families and achieve greater independence.
Commission co-author Professor Ningli Wang, Director of Beijing Tongren Eye Center, also says, “Cataract surgery and dispensing glasses are some of the most cost-effective of all health care interventions. By prioritising eye health through increased investment and restructuring health systems, we can provide simple, existing solutions such as these, rapidly improving lives and livelihoods worldwide. The case for countries to invest in eye health is compelling and more financial resources are urgently needed.”
The World Report on Vision released in 2019 pointed out that China accounts for the largest number of blind population in the world, with cataract and myopia being the major reasons for visual impairment.
The report builds on the World Health Organization’s World Report on Vision by looking at global development, economics, healthcare systems, equity and the workforce. Through this research, the Lancet Global Health Commission aims to inform governments and communities about the importance of improving eye health to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Access the study here.