Global eye health: Findings From the Lancet Global Health Commission

Stories | March 10, 2021

For millions of people living in low and middle income countries around the world, a lack of access to adequate, affordable or effective eye health care is one of the biggest barriers to full civic participation.

In 2020, it was estimated that 596 million people had distance vision impairment, with 43 million people experiencing blindness. In addition, a further 510 million people had uncorrected near vision impairment.

That is more than one billion people worldwide living with impairments that limit their opportunities and outcomes – and around 90 per cent of those affected live in low- and middle-income countries.

Sadly, these numbers are only expected to increase over coming decades unless immediate action is taken to prioritise eye health.

The good news? More than 90 per cent of people with vision impairments have preventable or treatable problems, such as cataract, uncorrected refractive error, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

In many cases, highly cost-effective interventions such as cataract surgery or the provision of spectacles can make immediate and tangible differences to the lives of people on the margins.

In 2021, The Lancet Global Health Commission released Global Eye Health: VISION Beyond 2020. This report draws on new and existing research in eye health from more than 70 experts from 25 countries. The report explores global development, economics, health care systems and the workforce to provide a range of recommendations to improve eye health for all.

One of the core features of CBM’s work is its inclusive eye health programs and initiatives in developing countries, including strengthening existing national eye health systems and improving access to inclusive and comprehensive eye care services.

CBM also supports people and communities to access sight-saving cataract surgery, which involves replacing a clouded eye lens with a clear, artificial lens that generally lasts a lifetime. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide, yet affordable eye care and surgery is highly effective.

The Lancet Global Health Commission estimates that vision impairment resulted in more than $410 billion in lost economic productivity in 2020 alone, and that greater access to treatments for cataract and refractive errors would meet more than 90 per cent of current unmet needs.

Key recommendations from the report include for countries to consider eye care as essential services within universal health coverage, for eye care to be integrated into general health systems to remove cost barriers for many, and for a major expansion to the eye care workforce in many countries to meet population need.

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