Independent MEP Marian Harkin today supported World Sight Day, calling for targeted awareness campaigns on preventable sight conditions.
Harkin noted that National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) statistics from 2010 showed that the direct cost of vision impairment to the Irish health care system is estimated at 116 million Euro. This figure is expected to rise to 136 million by 2020.
“These increasing costs can be prevented, and many people’s quality of life improved, if effective awareness campaigns encourage Irish citizens to go for testing,” she said.
“In particular,” Harkin added, “quality screening of high risk groups, such as elderly people and diabetes sufferers, could go a long to prevent further sight deterioration”.
The Ireland North & West MEP concluded that “all too often we take our eyesight for granted, and if we want these campaigns to succeed, people must regard taking an eye test as being as easy and convenient as taking a cholesterol test”.
Five Steps to Reduce the National Burden of Vision Impairment
1. Coordinate greater screening of high-risk groups including people with diabetes and the elderly; the prevalence of vision impairment due to longevity and non-communicable chronic diseases is increasing, particularly in developed countries such as the Republic of Ireland.
2. Provide more funding to hospital ophthalmology units, to reduce waiting lists for cataract surgery and other eye procedures to correct sight loss.
3. Encourage all Irish citizens to undergo an eye examination at least once each year.
4. Promote the clinical importance of ‘mild’ vision impairment, which impacts everyday activities and often progresses to more severe sight loss.
5. Target earlier treatment of eye diseases that impair vision, such as AMD, cataract and glaucoma.