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In honor of World Sight Day 2014 coming up on Oct. 9, it’s worth revisiting the World Health Organization’s Global Action Plan (GAP) in its first active year. In line with this year’s theme, “No More Avoidable Blindness,” GAP has identified an aggressive global goal – reducing avoidable blindness by 25 percent by 2019, based on the baseline measured in 2010.
In learning more about impaired vision and avoidable blindness and its causes, it’s easy to see that while ambitious, this target is wholly attainable. Incredibly, 80 percent of visual impairment is avoidable or easily treated. One simple yet effective way to lower this statistics is by thoroughly educating the public on the importance of healthy vision.
And while the societal value of healthy vision is clear, the economic impact is sometimes less obvious.
Interestingly, only 30 percent of people who suffer from uncorrected vision issues fail to seek correction because of economic reasons, and yet in the United States alone, refractive error costs the country $16.1 billion annually according to studies collected by the Vision Impact Institute.
Let’s look more closely at the financial effects of poor vision on a few key demographics around the world.
When considering the significant social and educational impact of uncorrected vision in children, we can more readily contemplate how this issue would lead to extensive costs for families, school systems and governments.
A few statistics worth learning:
- For school children with visual acuity below 20/20, the risk of failing a grade is more than three times compared to those with correct vision
- An estimated 30 percent of children worldwide experience uncorrected vision problems
- 70 percent of America’s juvenile offenders in jail have undiagnosed vision problems
$269 billion is the potential annual global productivity loss associated with uncorrected refractive errors, with nearly 10 percent of that total – $22 billion – attributed to the United States. In 2012, lost productivity indirectly cost the world $652 billion. Additionally, the average annual expenditure for employees who don’t have an eye examination at work is 62 percent higher.
Conversely, vision correction can increase an employee’s performance by as much as 20 percent.
Elderly people with poor vision are seven times more likely to fall than those without issues. In Australia, falls cost its healthcare system nearly $500 million in 2001. A Vision Impact Institute study showed the extensive avoidable annual costs of falls and hip fractures in France ($38 million AUD), Germany ($73 million AUD) and the United States ($253 million AUD).
In 2007, it was estimated that 60 percent of road accidents can be linked to vision, with the value of these vision-related accidents as much as $18 billion (Italy) In the United Kingdom, road accidents caused by poor-driver vision were worth more than $55 million in 2012.
What can you do to make a difference? To start, schedule an annual eye exam with an eye care professional for yourself, your significant other and your children, and encourage friends and family to do the same.