Does vision really matter?
By: Kovin Naidoo, Our Children’s Vision, Director and Courtenay Holden, Marketing and Communications Manager, Our Children's Vision
People will argue that our cause, eye care for all, is not saving lives; there are bigger wars to wage in the health arena. I say, that is not necessarily true.
Our cause is undiscriminating. It will quietly, and unexpectedly, rob children of their ability to see clearly, slowly steal their opportunities, and quickly derail a life.
It affects millions of lives, and if not checked, certain conditions threatens to affect a billion people by 2050.
I argue that this is a major public health issue. I argue that vision matters.
I continue to be shocked that millions of children are facing a problem that we have solutions for – simple solutions that are cost effective and sustainable. It should not matter if a child lives in a high rise in New York City, the barrios’ of Brazil or a rural village in Tanzania. The care should be available. Because, their vision matters, they matter.
We all want to see a world where children, regardless of their gender, economic status or geographical location deserve the opportunity to live a healthy and productive life. We would be remiss to think that eye health is not an integral part of that picture.
However, the reality is that children with even the mildest of vision problems will face more struggles than those without. Education is a key focal area of the Sustainable Development Goals and while an education cannot overcome all social and economic ills, it is considered one of the best defences we have against poverty. When we consider the part that clear vision plays in education – once again I am drawn to the fact that vision matters.
What would it look like if we neglected to make healthy vision a priority?
What I can tell you is that the prevalence of myopia (short sightedness) is growing alarmingly throughout the world. Especially in urban Asia, with current prevalence in children around school-leaving age being as high as 84% in Taiwan1, and almost 80% of 15-year-olds in urban China2.
The scary reality is that as levels of myopia increase so does the risk of people developing blinding conditions like myopic macular degeneration, cataract, retinal detachment, and glaucoma.3
Projections determine that there will be a 7-fold increase in the number of people with vision loss resulting from high myopia from 2000 to 2050, and myopia will become a leading cause of permanent blindness worldwide, an estimated one billion people will be at risk.
The strain on the health system will be crippling, economic losses will run into the billions, not to mention the toll on individual lives and families. If we do not make vision health a priority now, we are headed for a public health crisis of epic proportions.
However, I have hope that it will not come to this. The allies that we have in the fight to protect and promote eye health are remarkable. It is together that we will address and solve these very real problems – because vision counts.
- Lin ll, Shis YF, Hsiao CK, Chen CJ. Prevalence of myopia in Taiwanese schoolchildren: 1983 to 2000. Annals of Academy of Medicine, Singapore. 2004;33:27-33.
- He, M., Huan, W., Zheng, Y., Huang, L. & Ellwein, L. B. 2004. Refractive error and visual impairment in urban children in southern China. Investigative Ophthalmology and Vision Science, 45, 793-799.
- R.F. Spaide, K. Ohno-Matsui, L.A. Yannuzzi. Pathologic Myopia, Springer, New York (2014), cited in Holden et al.