From impacting independence to limiting daily activities or impairing mobility, it’s easy to understand the personal toll that vision loss can have on an individual – but what about the economic impact?
According to the Lancet Global Health Commission on Global Eye Health: vision beyond 2020, vision loss is estimated to cost $410.9 billion in lost productivity value. While that number is staggering, the data shows what we, at the Organization for the Prevention of Blindness (OPC), already know: investing in the prevention and treatment of vision loss yields significant economic savings and benefits both individuals and societies alike.
Yet, the consequences of insufficient eye healthcare are only growing. With aging individuals increasing in proportion around the world, vision loss is too. Yet, Deloitte’s most recent study documents that just 1.5-2.7% of healthcare expenditures, in the countries that were studied, were related to eye care (Investment in eye health to prevent sight loss). With 90% of the world’s vision impairment caused by preventative conditions, it’s time to get serious about sight.
Four Economic Consequences of Sight Loss
Examining the economic impact of vision loss leads us to four serious consequences of vision loss that affect all of us on an individual or societal level.
- Loss of Productivity: Vision loss can hinder an individual’s ability to work effectively. This leads to reduced productivity, absenteeism, and early retirement – ultimately resulting in a significant economic burden on both the individual and their employer.
- Healthcare Costs: Treating vision-related conditions and providing support to individuals with sight issues can be expensive. Healthcare expenditures related to vision problems include medical treatments, surgeries, assistive devices, and rehabilitation services.
- Education Impact: Children and young adults with vision loss may face challenges in education, limiting their future employment opportunities and economic contributions.
- Societal Costs: Beyond healthcare and productivity losses, vision loss imposes indirect costs on society as a whole. These costs may include increased dependence on social services, a reduced quality of life for affected individuals, and the need for additional resources to support them.
The Case for Investing in Eye Health
Investing in eye health is not only the most ethical thing to do – ensuring the human right to sight – it’s also the smartest economic choice. It is estimated that for every $1 invested in cataract treatment, $20 is generated in economic return (Transforming Lives: An Investment Case for Eye Health)
This was proven out in the results of The Lancet’s 2018 trial on the “Effect of Providing Near Glasses on Productivity Among Rural Indian Tea Workers with Presbyopia.” Conducting the study analyzing the productivity of tea-pickers over 40 years old in India with vision loss, individuals were randomly provided free glasses, at a cost of $10-20 per person. During the trial, their productivity was measured by the amount of tea harvested. Findings showed a “substantial productivity increase.”
While the simple act of providing glasses to the test cohort stimulated the local agricultural business, it also impacted the individual as they were paid based on their productivity.
Practical Steps for Everyone
While the solution to reducing the economic impact of vision loss is complex, there are accessible ways that each of us can make a difference.
Early detection and intervention can prevent or delay vision loss. Investing in annual eye check-ups and early intervention strategies can significantly reduce the long-term, personal economic burden associated with vision impairment.
Additionally, each one of us can promote public awareness about eye health. Sharing about the importance of regular eye exams can encourage proactive healthcare-seeking behavior. An informed individual is more likely to take steps to preserve their vision. You can make a difference right now by sharing this blog on your social media or with a friend!
Society’s Role in the Right to Sight
It’s equally critical for countries to invest public resources into preserving sight. Deloitte’s recent report, Investment in eye health to prevent sight loss, shares four calls to action that can impact the eye health of 1.1 billion people, worldwide, living with preventable sight loss.
- Information: Allocating resources to enhance the national data gathering of the prevalence, underlying factors, outputs, and consequences of eye health will empower policymakers in understanding the demand for eye care and making well-informed policy choices.
- Leadership: Investment in the creation of a national strategic plan for eye health will play a pivotal role in advancing the vision, guiding policy directions, and orchestrating strategies within the field of eye health, while also fostering collaboration among key stakeholders.
- Workplace Accommodations: Employers can play a crucial role by providing accommodation and support to employees with vision loss, helping them remain in the workforce and contribute to the economy.
- Services: Allocating resources to preventive and early intervention eye care services will encourage improved outcomes in eye health and concurrently curtail overall system expenditures.
OPC’s Role in Eye Health Accessibility
The Organization to Prevent Blindness (OPC) is dedicated to increasing health equity among Francophone Africa – which receives significantly less aid than English-speaking countries. Recent reports have confirmed the urgent need for more investment, both personally and organizationally. Together, with you, we can make an impact for those at risk for blindness.