The WHO’s first world report on vision details how 2.2 billion people in the world have vision impairment or blindness, with more than 1 billion living with preventable vision impairment.
“Eye conditions and vision impairment are widespread, and far too often they still go untreated,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, WHO director-general, said in a press release. “People who need eye care must be able to receive quality interventions without suffering financial hardship. Including eye care in national health plans and essential packages of care is an important part of every country’s journey towards universal health coverage.”
Aging populations, changing lifestyles and limited access to eye care, especially in low- and middle-income countries, are the main reasons why many live with vision impairment, the release said.
Those living in low- and middle-income regions have four times the unmet need of distance vision impairment compared with high-income regions. The low- and middle-income regions of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia also have eight times higher rates of blindness than high-income countries.
Cataract, trachoma and refractive error are the main causes of vision impairment and blindness across the world, but diabetic retinopathy, due to more patients with diabetes, and late detection also contribute.
The WHO estimates $14.3 billion is required to address the 1 billion people living with vision impairment or blindness due to myopia, hyperopia and cataracts, the release said.
In addition, more eye care services are needed in order to prevent, detect and treat these issues.
“Millions of people have severe vision impairment and are not able to participate in society to their fullest because they can’t access rehabilitation services,” Alarcos Cieza, PhD, the WHO coordinator for blindness and deafness prevention, disability and rehabilitation, said. “In a world built on the ability to see, eye care services, including rehabilitation, must be provided closer to communities for people to achieve their maximum potential.”
Read the full report here.