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WHO Says ‘Avoidable’ Vision Loss Hurts Global Productivity

June 2 2009 | by

A World Health Organization study published today says uncorrected vision impairments throughout the world are having an significant effect on the global economy. The WHO estimates that uncorrected reflective error, or URE — the biggest cause of avoidable blindness and vision impairment in the world — is costing $269 billion each year in lost productivity.

The authors from Johns Hopkins University, the International Center for Eyecare Education, the University of New South Wales and the African Vision Research Institute University of KwaZulu-Natal, say the problem could be eliminated simply, and very cost-effectively, by an eye examination and a pair of eyeglasses.

Today, 90 percent of blindness and vision impairment is in the developing world. The study says vision loss is highest in the Western Asia-Pacific region, which includes China and Vietnam. With 62 million URE cases, this region is responsible for almost half the potential loss of productivity. Bangladesh, India and Nepal have a combined 48.7 million cases.

The study covered distance-vision loss, but not losses in near vision, which is estimated to affect another 520 million people — most in the developing world. “The great tragedy for people blind or vision impaired due to URE is that we have the solution and the resources to correct their vision,” says Kovin Naidoo, the director of ICEE who also heads the African Vision Research Institute.

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