Vision Health Month is the annual opportunity for raising awareness of and supporting initiatives to address the significant burden of vision loss to individuals and nations. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) World Report on Vision, roughly 2.2 billion people live with vision loss, with the heaviest burden borne by older people and marginalized populations. Globally, experts have repeatedly called for universal access to comprehensive eye care services and integrated person-centred eye care, however access and equity of vision care remains a challenge in many parts of the world.
Vision loss impacts the quality of life throughout the life course, and most severely in later life by contributing to lower participation in the workforce and community, higher rates of social isolation and depression, increased likelihood of falls and fractures, loss of independence and autonomy, and cognitive decline.
Moreover, the financial and economic burden of vision loss on the national scale is immense, in Canada amounting to $32.9 B annually in direct health care costs (hospital stays, services provided by vision professionals, cost of medicines), indirect health care costs (reduced workforce participation/productivity, premature loss of function and income), and the cost to well-being (disability care and equipment and other out-of-pocket expenses).1
The Canadian Ophthalmological Society draws attention to the urgent need to prioritize eye care through a National Vision Health Plan that would improve access to care for the over 8 million Canadians at risk for blindness. Studies have indicated that early screening can treat or prevent 75 per cent of vision loss cases, allowing patients and their families the opportunity to regain function, autonomy and improve their quality of life.
A comprehensive eye exam is essential to early detection of blinding eye diseases, and to thoroughly discussing treatment options, particularly as new treatments emerge in the rapidly evolving field of biosimilars. Of concern is the fact that a recent article from the American Academy of Ophthalmology has suggested there remains a high degree of uncertainty among patients and professionals when it comes to the 25 ophthalmic biosimilars in development in 2020.
“Given the rapidly expanding pipeline of biosimilars, physicians will be challenged to stay up to date—and to do so, they will need evidence from well-designed studies. ‘That’s why it’s critical for federal and foundation funding to do these objective comparative studies,’” says Dr. Jennifer K. Sun, Associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Center for Clinical Eye Research and Trials at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.
Aligned with the calls of vision health experts and advocates for universal and integrated person-centred eye care, the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing provides a framework for action through four action areas, including integrated primary care for older people. The IFA’s 15th Global Conference on Ageing represents a critical point of connection for all those advocating for the rights of older people to access eye care, through a Presidential Symposium on Vision Health entitled “The Future of Person-centred Vision Care” taking place virtually and in-person on 11th November 2021.
If you are a journalist covering this topic – then let the experts help with your stories.
- Ms. Helen Louise Gillis, President, Canadian Council of the Blind
- Mr. Doug Earle, President and Chief Executive Officer, Fighting Blindness Canada
- Dr. Walter Wittich, Associate Professor, School of Optometry, University of Montreal
Experts are available to speak with media about the impact of vision loss, vision health research, and healthy ageing – simply click on either expert’s icon to arrange an interview today.
1 Canadian Council of the Blind. (2021). The Cost of Vision Loss and Blindness in Canada. Retrieved online at https://bit.ly/3f6ljMP
Helen Louise Gillis National President – Volunteer
She has served on the CCB at all levels including committees advocating for accessibility for blind/vision impaired Canadians.
Doug Earle, CFRE President & CEO
Doug Earle has worked for Canada’s leading health charities funding research & services for blindness, cancer, arthritis & mental health.
Dr. Walter Wittich Associate Professor
Dr. Walter Wittich's expertise focuses on the rehabilitation of older adults with combined vision and hearing loss.