Blog submitted by Barbara A. DeBuono, MD, MPH
Barbara A. DeBuono, MD, MPH is President and CEO of ORBIS
Cost-effective analysis is a measure that is discussed frequently in the context of healthcare in the United States. This process compares the costs and the benefits of a healthcare-related intervention. In the field of eye care it is clear that the benefits outweigh the cost.
On World Sight Day, I had the opportunity to attend a VISION 2020 congressional briefing in Washington DC with other eye care partners and government officials. The theme of the event was Cost Effectiveness of Blindness Prevention Activities. The event featured a presentation by Dr. Kevin Frick, professor at John Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and an expert in calculating cost-effectiveness of health care.
We all know that the cost of blindness and visual impairment in the United States is enormous. According to Dr. Frick, in the United States a blind individual aged 40 or older spends an extra $2587 on medical care every year. In 2008, the estimated United States societal medical cost of all blind individuals was $2.7 billion.1 Imagine what this would look like on a global scale.
When we apply these factors to the developing world, this cost goes beyond an economic and financial burden. Yet, we do not have strong data and research to support this assumption. What we do know is that blindness and visual impairment impact quality of life. In these communities, these conditions can hinder an individual’s ability to gain an education, gain employment and contribute to family financial stability. Ultimately, this can trap a family in a cycle of poverty. Studies have shown for example that individuals with cataract are more likely to be poor than those with normal vision.2
There has been little research to examine the correlation between blindness and poverty. ORBIS and partners in South Africa are currently working to help fill this gap. Using results of a household survey conducted by the South African War on Poverty Initiative, ORBIS and partners collected data regarding eye care in poor South African households. This will be followed by an analysis of the relationship between factors such as disability, access to healthcare and blindness. The results will be shared with the South African government for planning and advocacy purposes. Examining blindness in the context of poverty can serve as a powerful advocacy tool for increased budget and attention to eye care services.
This is the data and information we need to put eye health on the global agenda. At ORBIS we hope to continue to work with global partners and use such data to advocate for increased eye care services and blindness prevention globally.
Children perform at the opening celebration for the ORBIS supported Pediatric Eye Care Center in Durban, South Africa in partnership with the KwaZulu Natal (KZN) Department of Health.
1. Frick, K. “Cost-Effectiveness of Blindness Prevention” Vision 2020 World Sight Day 2012 Congressional Briefing. Washington DC
2. International Center for Eye Health. (2009). Cataract Impact Study: Summary report. Retrieved from https://www.iceh.org.uk/display/WEB/Cataract+impact+study#