- Data shows sight loss affects around 2.2 billion people globally
- Kenya stands to save an incredible Sh22.3 billion annually by reducing sight loss caused by cataracts and refractive error
The world is losing sight at an alarming rate, this, despite advances in medicine and technology.
Data shows sight loss affects around 2.2 billion people globally, at a cost of $411 billion every year, a figure that is likely to increase in the absence of practical interventions.
This should signal to governments and businesses how much could be gained from investing in eye health and preventing vision loss.
A study by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), released on this year’s World Sight Day, provides fresh impetus for countries to invest in eye health by calculating the economic cost of avoidable sight loss in every country.
According to the report, Kenya stands to save an incredible Sh22.3 billion annually by reducing sight loss caused by cataracts and refractive error, the two leading causes of vision loss.
Kenya is also seen to have the highest overall return on investment for eye health interventions. For every investment in cataract treatment in Kenya, the economic return was $52. Myopia treatment returned $15 for every dollar, and presbyopia, $13.
The economic benefits are clear, but so are the business benefits. An estimated 30 per cent of people who experience sight loss also experience a reduction in employment.
By helping workers look after their eyes, employers can boost productivity, retain their staff for longer and create healthier, happier workers - all while protecting their independence and lifetime earnings.
Employers and businesses can benefit enormously from making eye health part of their workplace wellbeing programs and providing information and support at little to no cost.
Introducing workplace vision screenings or connecting workers with eye health services can give people access to spectacles, increasing productivity and preventing further vision loss.
An office eye health checklist including proper work ergonomics, lighting, screen settings and frequent screen breaks can significantly reduce eye strain, as well as proper guidelines on what to do during eye injury emergencies.
Linking workers to eye health services would also ensure more people are screened and provided with spectacles when needed.
Partnerships with stakeholders such as the Optometrists Association of Kenya can help increase people’s access to eye health services and raise awareness in a wellness context.
The Kenyans at the highest risk of vision impairment due to occupation-related hazards or age are the workers: white-collared or blue-collared, jua kali, farmers, and the broad spectrum of the Kenyan workforce would be the biggest beneficiaries of a well-structured eye health and wellness strategy.
The reality of Vision 2030, will be seen in a healthy workforce, supporting the social, economic, and political pillars that will raise our level as a middle-income country.
It will be seen in thriving industries, a strengthened economy and a strong GDP. From another prism, Vision 2030, as relates to the World Health Summit targets on the reduction of vision impairment through the reduction of cataracts and refractive errors, could be a reality with wide-scale access to health interventions.
There is no better time than the present to rethink, recalibrate and invest in the right strategies to secure Kenya’s vision.
A good return is what every investor wants, and a good return is what a structured investment in eye health will yield – not just for the employer, but for the individual and the nation.
Victor Opiyo is the President of the Optometrists Association of Kenya