The World Health Organization (WHO) released its first World Vision Report this week, proposing ways to address challenges such as integrating eye care into healthcare systems. The report found that globally, over 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment. In a telling finding, the report said that out of these 2.2 billion, 1 billion people are suffering from conditions that are preventable, or unaddressed. A majority of the cases among these 1 billion cases are of unaddressed presbyopia, at 826 million. This is followed by unaddressed refractive error, at over 120 million.
Rural communities, low-income countries and older people bear the brunt of these impairments, the report said. For instance, the age-specific prevalence of presenting distance vision impairment in an urban population of Delhi (20% prevalence among 60-69-year-olds) was one-third lower than that of a rural population in Northern India (28%).
The report estimated that over 11.9 million globally have conditions such as glaucoma, trachoma and diabetic retinopathy, which could have been prevented. The estimated cost of preventing conditions among these 11.9 million people is over $5.8 billion.
Surgeries for cataract, which is the leading cause of blindness globally, have shown improvements over time, in low middle-income countries. In India the rate of cataract surgery has increased nine-fold (6,000 per million population) between 1981 and 2012. This has been possible due to the National Programme for Control of Blindness, which was launched in 1976 and under which cataract surgeries were performed on 6.5 million people in 2016-2017, the report said.