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Could providing eye exams, glasses save $202 billion?

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Governments around the world could save billions of dollars a year by providing an eye exam and a pair of glasses to the 703 million people who need them, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Brien Holden Vision Institute and Johns Hopkins University calculated that a one-off investment of $28 billion – to train eye care personnel, build facilities, and provide spectacles -- would lead to a savings of $174 billion for the first year, then $202 billion annually.

People with uncorrected refractive error can’t focus clearly on images. According to the study, providing good vision to people with blurred vision would enable greater workplace output and increase gross domestic product.

Here are some more figures, from the Brien Holden Vision Institute release.

What the $28 billion buys:

  • A trained eye care provider can assess the vision correction need and prescribe and fit a pair of glasses in around 30 minutes.
  • A pair of spectacles can be made available for as little as $2.
  • About 47,000 extra personnel will be needed to provide clinical care, plus 18,000 to dispense optics.
  • The investment would be enough to cover costs for 5 years, after which revenue generated by the services would sustain them.
  • The cost of establishing systems to correct vision impairing refractive error is about 2.4 percent of the estimated 5 year productivity loss.

The 703 million people who are vision impaired due to uncorrected refractive error includes:

  • Distance vision impairment – myopia (short- or near-sightedness), hyperopia (far- or long-sightedness), and astigmatism. There are 158 million without adequate correction
  • Near vision impairment – presbyopia (age-related loss of focusing power, particularly on close objects). There are 544 million without adequate correction.

The work [pdf] was published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization this month.

[Via Brien Holden Vision Institute]

Image by 0xMatheus via Flickr

— By on October 9, 2012, 3:02 PM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure