International report highlights prevalence and cost of sight loss globally

01 March 21

written by:

Róisín Treacy

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A blue picture of the world map with lights joining different parts of the world to each other.

There are 1.1 billion people living with untreated sight loss globally, over 90% of which could be prevented or treated with existing, highly cost-effective interventions, according to a new international report.

The Lancet Global Health Commission on Global Eye Health also warns that an ageing global population, together with lifestyle changes, are driving worldwide increases in chronic eye diseases associated with ageing. Without additional investment in global eye health the number of people living with untreated sight loss is expected to grow to 1.8 billion by 2050.

The Commission estimates that addressing preventable sight loss could result in global economic benefits of £296 billion a year and is essential to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including reducing poverty and inequality, and improving education and access to work. They are calling for eye care to be included in universal health services and development policies.

It supports the findings of Fight for Sight’s Time to Focus report, published last year, which found that reducing the prevalence of eye conditions by just one percent per year could avoid costs to the UK economy of up to £3.1 billion by the end of the decade.

Co-Chair of The Lancet Commission, Professor Matthew Burton, said: “It is unacceptable that more than a billion people worldwide are needlessly living with treatable vision impairment. Vision impairment leads to detrimental effects for health, wellbeing, and economic development including reduced education and employment opportunities, social isolation, and shorter life expectancy. As the COVID-19 pandemic brings renewed emphasis on building resilient and responsive health systems, eye health must take its rightful place within the mainstream health agenda and global development.”

Chief Executive of Fight for Sight, Sherine Krause, said: “We welcome this landmark report from the Lancet Global Health Commission, which echos the findings of our Time to Focus report. Sight loss has a huge financial and social cost on individuals and society both in the UK and across the world. But the true cost of sight loss is a personal one that can’t be measured in pounds and pence. Science offers so many possibilities to transform lives and there are breakthroughs happening every day. In spite of this, in the UK only 1.5 percent of national research funding is invested in eye research and eye health is not being made enough of a priority. This needs to change and we are calling on the government to double investment in eye research in the next decade."

Read our Time to Focus report