If the world was shrunk down to a mere 100 people, four of them would live with low vision health or blindness. This doesn’t sound like a lot—until you consider that it adds up to 285 million people, 90 percent of whom live in low-income countries.
This week, the world is opening its eyes to the devastating impacts of blindness and vision impairment for World Sight Day on October 8. This will be the 15th annual event, which is held on the second Thursday of October.
The sad truth is that the vast majority—80 percent—of visual impairment is easily preventable with regular eye care. However, many countries have little to no eye care at all. Take Haiti: the country has a population of 11 million people, but there are only three eye doctors. Not three thousand, or three hundred, or even three dozen. Three. Can you imagine?
This year’s World Sight Day is focused on bringing awareness to the economic and cultural factors that play into vision impairment. This year’s activist work and festivities are organized around a simple call to action: Eye Care for All.
Eye care for all means economic autonomy. It means the restoring the ability to work and provide for a family. In many countries, the working poor survive on less than $2 per day per family because only one family member can work.
Eye care for all means improved opportunities for women and girls. They are affected by blindness and vision impairment at much higher rates than men and boys, partly because of reduced access to health services and less ability to pay.
Eye care for all means socioeconomic parity. Thousands of kids in the US have eye problems like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. These problems are often first noticed when kids go to school and can’t see the board. The obvious answer? Eyeglasses. They’re a simple, cost-effective solution to this problem. However, 25 percent of American parents have never taken their child to an eye doctor. This disproportionately affects urban youth of color, probably because of the prohibitive cost of care for some people.
Without simple vision problems corrected, kids fall behind in school, become isolated from their peers, and struggle to read. As the years pass, this educational gap widens more and more. This year, 96 percent of New Jersey teachers surveyed saw an improvement in classes where needy students received eyeglasses.
Some of the most cost-effective treatments in healthcare are the restorations of sight and blindness prevention. An aging global population means in coming years, an even higher percentage of the population will be at risk of vision impairment, so we must act now.
We must all stop turning a “blind eye” towards the problem of preventable vision impairment.
The world’s leading cause of blindness is an untreated cataract—a procedure that is easier and cheaper to do than ever before. Avoid becoming one of those four suffering from preventable impairment: in honor of World Sight Day, take advantage of your ability to regular eye care and schedule your annual appointment at OCLI.