Impaired vision costs billions in lost productivity worldwide
15 June 2009
Researchers estimate that nearly 158 million people globally suffer
with vision impairment resulting from uncorrected refractive error,
which can usually be eliminated with a pair of eyeglasses and an eye
Corrected vision impairment could prevent billions of dollars in lost
productivity annually, according to the study by researchers from the
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of School of Public Health, the
International Centre for Eyecare Education, the University of New South
Wales and the African Vision Research Institute.
This is the first study to estimate the productivity loss from
uncorrected refractive error and is published in the June 2009 issue of
the Bulletin of the World Health Organization .
“The economic gains that could be made if eyeglasses were provided to
everyone in need are substantial,” said Kevin Frick, author of the study
and an associate professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of
Health Policy and Management.
“Our research estimates US$269 billion in productivity lost and
nearly 158 million people are vision-impaired because of uncorrected
refractive error — which is correctable. The Western Pacific region,
which includes China and Vietnam, has the highest estimated number of
cases of uncorrected refractive error at 62 million and is responsible
for almost half of the potential loss of productivity. The Southeast
Asia region, encompassing Bangladesh, India and Nepal, has 48.7 million
Frick, along with colleagues, used conservative assumptions and
national data to estimate the purchasing power, parity-adjusted gross
domestic product loss for individuals with impaired vision and
blindness, and for individuals with normal sight who provide them with
informal care. Researchers found that uncorrected refractive error has a
potentially greater impact on the global economy than all other
preventable vision disorders despite low-cost interventions such as
“Apart from the moral obligation, this research indicates that there
is a tremendous loss of human potential and lost productivity associated
with avoidable blindness and impaired vision due to uncorrected
refractive error,” said Frick.
1. TST Smith, KD Frick, BA Holden, TR Fricke and KS Naidoo. Potential
lost productivity resulting from the global burden of uncorrected
refractive error. Bulletin of the World Health Organization,
Vol 87 Number 6, June 2009.
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