Economic Cost And Burden Of Eye Disease And Preventable Blindness

Image of National Vision Coalition MembersThe National Vision Coalition, an alliance of healthcare professionals, those working in the sight loss community, and service users, held a briefing on April 1, 2014 to launch the findings of the Economic Cost and Burden of Eye Diseases and Preventable Blindness in Ireland report, calling for immediate implementation of a national vision strategy.

The report analyses the burden of blindness and the most prevalent eye diseases in Ireland, while evaluating the cost-effectiveness of interventions to prevent eye disease and sight loss. It reveals that five people per week became blind in Ireland since 2010, despite 75-80% of blindness being preventable.

Blindness and vision impairment cost the Irish State €205 million in 2010, yet up to €76 million could potentially be saved if a series of cost-effective measures for the four main eye diseases in Ireland, diabetic retinopathy, wet age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma, were implemented. Recommended interventions include screening, treatment, and surgery where needed.

The Coalition is asking for a national vision strategy that includes:

  • co-ordination and integration of services,
  • core focus of prevention and early intervention,
  • knowledge and awareness among health professionals and the general public,
  • research to promote healthy vision, eliminate avoidable sight loss and improve the quality of care,
  • inclusion – to ensure those affected are engaged in the design and delivery of support services.

224,000 people in Ireland are affected by vision loss, this is predicted to rise to 272,000 by 2020. Current eye services are fragmented, therefore it is essential to adopt a more strategic approach to the design and development of vision health services.

David Keegan, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon, Mater Hospital, Dublin, and member of the Coalition, gave an extensive overview of the report findings. Examples of the burden  on healthcare services include people with vision loss being up to eight times more likely to fracture a hip, three times more likely to be depressed, and admission to nursing homes taking place up to three years earlier. He also confirmed the potential positive effect of adopting a strong strategy and implementing screening programmes, showing that diabetic retinopathy is no longer the leading cause of preventable blindness in the UK, ten years into their screening programme.

You can read an extended report on the Economic Cost and Burden of Eye Diseases and Preventable Blindness in Ireland here.

Download ‘Framework to Adopt a Strategic Approach to Vision Health in Ireland’ here.

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