Study reveals India could gain US$27 billion annually by preventing avoidable sight loss
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Guwahati:  Avoidable sight loss would add US$27 billion (₹2.2 trillion) per year to India’s economy, according to new research released today on the occasion of World Sight Day.

 The Love Your Eyes campaign has released these figures to highlight how improved eye health boosts productivity, urging business leaders to put eye health on the workplace wellbeing agenda this World Sight Day.

The study, conducted by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and Prof. Kevin Frick from Johns Hopkins, calculated the costs of avoidable sight loss among people over 50. India had the third-highest potential savings of all countries in the study. 

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) is a global alliance of organisations working towards the elimination of avoidable blindness and vision impairment.

As technology transforms the world of work, the future economy will be dominated by service industries and office-based jobs involving the prolonged use of screens. Without proper precautions, this can lead to eye strain and negatively impact eye health. 

Sight loss costs the global economy US$411 billion every year, according to the Lancet Global Health Commission on Global Eye Health. An estimated 30% of people with sight loss experience a reduction in employment, with women, people in rural communities, and ethnic minority groups among the groups most affected. However, 90% of sight loss is avoidable with early detection and treatment.

In India, there are currently 70 million people with visual impairment. Preventing sight loss with early detection and treatment for eye conditions like cataracts and myopia is vital to protect livelihoods and allow businesses to thrive.

This data was used to estimate the productivity losses in people aged 50-65 with moderate to severe vision impairment and blindness due to uncorrected refractive error, or unoperated cataracts.

The research drew on GNI per Capita data from the World Bank and prevalence figures for a number of eye health conditions from the ‘VLEG/GBD 2020 Model’ displayed on the IAPB Vision Atlas. 

Held on the second Thursday of October each year, IAPB coordinates World Sight Day, a UN-recognised international event dedicated to drawing attention to the global issue of visual impairment. This is especially crucial as 1.1 billion people worldwide still lack access to the most basic form of eye health services

Vinod Daniel, CEO of India Vision Institute said, “People from disadvantaged and rural communities lack adequate access to eyecare, and are thus denied vision screenings and a pair of corrective glasses. This means uncorrected refractive error is costing the country billions in lost productivity, and valuable earnings for the individuals affected.”

“Early detection is crucial to preventing blindness. We work directly with communities, schools and workplaces to provide free vision screenings and spectacles to those who otherwise wouldn’t have access. Preventing vision loss changes everything for them and allows them to thrive in work and life,” he said.

Peter Holland, CEO of IAPB and Love Your Eyes campaign spokesperson also shared his opinion saying, “Business leaders have played a vital role in raising awareness of workplace wellbeing, from mental health to menopause. Today, World Sight Day is an opportunity for employers to add eye health to their well-being agenda and encourage workers to love their eyes.”

“Our eyes are central to our ability to earn a living. Sight loss has a profound impact on one’s personal and professional life, with cataracts and simply not having reading glasses among the leading causes of avoidable sight loss. Women, people in rural communities, and ethnic minority groups are even more likely to experience sight loss and be excluded from employment and services,” he said.

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“Whether it’s through eye health education, connecting employees with eye health services, adding eye health to insurance plans or adjusting screen settings, there are many ways to build a vision-friendly work environment and create healthier, happier workers. Nobody should experience avoidable sight loss, and no business should miss out on the boost that better eye health brings to their bottom line,” he added.

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