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AMD Alliance International: First-Ever Estimates of Global Cost of Vision Loss Reported Today

Visual impairment imposes a massive burden on health care systems and economies worldwide

VIENNA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Apr 16, 2010 - Coincident with their Global Congress being held in Vienna this week, AMD Alliance International (AMDAI) today released the first-ever estimates of global cost of vision loss -- nearly $3 trillion dollars ($2,954 billion USD) for the 733 million people living with low vision and blindness worldwide in 2010.1 Even more importantly, these costs are set to rise dramatically through to 2020 unless effective prevention and treatment strategies are adopted worldwide. Current costs include direct health care expenditure, informal caregiver time, lost productivity, and inefficiencies in raising tax revenue to fund health care. In North America alone, the direct cost was $512.8 billion, and the indirect costs were $179 billion, according to the AMDAI study.

“The findings from this study represent the most definitive data available about the worldwide cost of vision loss,” says Professor Alan Cruess, Professor and Head District Chief Department of Ophthalmology, Dalhousie University, and Chairman, AMD Alliance International Scientific Advisory Panel. Dr. Penny Hartin, CEO, World Blind Union adds, “With continued population growth, we know these costs will spiral upwards, and overburden global healthcare systems unless we take preventative action now. This ground breaking research gives us the tools we need for continued advocacy with the United Nations and governments.”

Recommendations for reducing the burden of disease

The burden of visual impairment highlighted in the report can be reduced through early implementation of national vision health plans which include effective prevention, treatment and low vision rehabilitation strategies. Vision advocates and blindness prevention experts at AMD Alliance International, and The World Blind Union, join together in making five key recommendations:

 

  • Frequent screening of people with diabetes, and the elderly who are at higher risk of retinopathy, macular degeneration, and glaucoma.
  • Increased training in cataract surgery for doctors in developing regions;
  • Greater availability of affordable eye wear to correct refractive error;
  • Funding and distribution of medication to treat river blindness and trachoma in affected populations;
  • Early treatment of childhood eye diseases, including cataract and glaucoma.

The report also looks at costs of vision loss associated with specific eye conditions. The AMDAI research reports the worldwide cost of visual impairment due to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) alone at US$343 billion including US$255 billion direct health care costs. AMD is reported to contribute a greater proportion of the economic burden in developed countries where both life expectancy and health care costs are higher.

The study also estimated the global health burden of visual impairment using disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), the unit of measurement favoured by the WHO. It is reported that worldwide, people with visual impairment will be deprived of the equivalent of 118 million years of healthy life (DALYs) due to disability and premature death in 2010, with AMD the cause of 6 million of these DALYs. The report states that if current trends continue this health burden will rise to 150 million DALYs in 2020.

“IAPB commends AMD Alliance International and Access Economics for undertaking this important study. The report provides further evidence of the huge cost and the negative impact of blindness and visual impairment on the global economy”, says Peter Ackland, CEO of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB). “The irony is that 80% of blindness can be avoided and that the tried and tested solutions to this major global health issue are readily available through the VISION 2020 programme. The cost of implementing these solutions would be a tiny fraction of the $3trillion that this report estimates to be the annual global cost of visual impairment. Accordingly IAPB fully endorses the calls for action made by the AMD Alliance and urges everyone concerned with development and the alleviation of poverty to read this report.”

“Whilst the health care costs of visual impairment have been previously reported for individual countries, this is the first study that seeks to estimate global costs from a societal perspective,” says Steve Winyard, Head of Public Policy at RNIB, economics advisor and Past Chair, AMD Alliance International. “In addition to the direct costs of health care, there are substantial knock-on costs to regional economies that should not be ignored. In fact, we estimate that 17% of the total worldwide cost is due to lost productivity in people living with disability, to premature death due to visual impairment, and to the value of informal caregiver time. Our results highlight the enormous worldwide costs of vision loss and the need to tackle the causes from a global perspective. We cannot afford to wait any longer.”

– ENDS –

About AMD Alliance International and The Access Economics Report

AMD Alliance International is the only international organization in the world dedicated exclusively to promoting awareness, treatment and research into macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in the developed world. We are a membership organization comprised of the worlds' leading vision, seniors and research organizations from 25 countries.

This report, developed by Access Economics for AMD Alliance International, estimates the direct costs, indirect costs, and health burdens of visual impairment for 2010 to 2020, and includes a series of sensitivity analyses. The study uses a range of global health and economic indicators to extrapolate data between regions and provide a “best estimate” of the worldwide burden of vision loss. This media release includes information taken from the base case results. Both an executive summary and the full report can be accessed online at www.amdalliance.org or by request to the media contact listed below.

REFERENCES

1. Access Economics, prepared for AMD Alliance International, The Global Economic Cost of Visual Impairment, March 2010 (all costs are reported in 2008 US dollars)

Contact: AMD Alliance International
For further information or to arrange
a media interview, please contact:
David Harrison, Harrison Communications:
david@harrisoncommunications.net
410-804-1728
or
B&K - Bettschart&Kofler, Vienna
Dr. Birgit Kofler or Ms. Daniela Pedross, MA
Ph: +43-1-3194378-131
Mobile: +43-676-6368930
E-Mail: kofler@bkkommunikation.com
or pedross@bkkommunikation.com

 

Posted: April 2010

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