TORONTO – A new report suggests that improved services for people with vision loss are needed to meet rising costs that could otherwise strain Canada’s health care system and economy.
The report, released Wednesday by Deloitte Access Economics and commissioned by four major vision organizations in Canada, used established data on major eye diseases to estimate that vision loss cost Canada nearly $ 33 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $ 56 billion in 2050, mainly due to trends in population growth and aging.
âCanada is experiencing an emerging crisis of preventable blindness,â Doug Earle, President and CEO of Fighting Blindness Canada, told CTVNews.ca in an interview.
The report found that 1.2 million Canadians are currently living with vision loss, and that number is expected to reach two million by 2050 as the population ages.
In total, vision loss has cost Canadians $ 17.5 billion in wellness spending, $ 9.5 billion in direct health care costs, $ 6.1 billion in “indirect health care” and other costs âin 2019, according to the report.
The report also states that people with vision loss experience a loss of income of $ 10,666 per person, or 21 percent of the average salary of Canadians.
âWe see in the report people retiring early because of their vision loss, and that’s because they don’t have the technologies in place to help them continue in their role,â Earle said.
The coalition that commissioned the report – the Canadian Council of the Blind, Combating Blindness Canada, the Canadian Association of Optometrists and the Canadian Ophthalmological Society – said its findings indicate the need for increased federal support for people. living with vision loss and for the provinces to cover the cost of comprehensive eye exams.
âFederal leadership and agenda setting are needed to implement policies that address the problem head-on and establish a framework for coordinated action that will address the multifaceted nature of the problem,â the report said. âA comprehensive, national plan for vision health in Canada is not only desirable, rational and ethical, but also long overdue.
In 2003, the federal government made a commitment to the World Health Organization to develop a âvision health planâ by 2007, but that never materialized.
“We really need governments to step up their efforts because we know this growing population of people who are experiencing vision loss for no reason,” Earle said.
While cases of vision loss are expected to increase, the good news is that around 75% of cases are reversible, preventable, or treatable if caught early enough.
âResearch has delivered the treatments that are available to you today and that is why regular eye exams are essential and governments across Canada have in fact eliminated these regular eye exams for adults. of working age, âsaid Earle.
Doug Purdy of Vancouver is one of those people who caught his illness early enough and can treat it. He was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in his 50s, but noticed his condition worsened over time and was able to receive the appropriate treatment before it reached irreparable levels.
âThe ophthalmologist I had at the time provided me with the key AMD brochures, and that was essential,â he said in an interview.
“If I had lost my eye, I wouldn’t be sitting here with you today, or I would be sitting here with you with great difficulty being able to see you and have this conversation.”
While Purdy still has vision problems and requires regular treatment to maintain his sight, he would be blind without the innovative procedures he was able to undergo. He also said his counseling business would be all but over if he lost his eyesight.
âI could not have had the successful businesses that I have had over the past 20 years without these treatments,â he said. “It would have had a profound financial impact on me, too, not to be able to operate my business.”
Earle said that a regular eye exam – every two years for people aged 40 to 65 and annually for people over 65 – combined with knowing what to look for is one of the best strategies to protect your eyesight in the long term.