Addressing the National Press Club in Canberra today, Vision 2020 Australia Chair Amanda Vanstone said Australia is facing staggering blindness and vision loss projections as the population ages.
The former parliamentarian also used the World Sight Day Address to call for a smarter, more coordinated, approach to eye health.
Presenting a plan to tackle avoidable blindness and vision impairment, Ms Vanstone told the audience that investing in eye health makes both social and economic sense in Australia and our region.
Ms Vanstone said the cost of vision loss in Australia in 2009 was $16.6 billion. “With an ageing population it will keep rising,” she said.
“People who are blind or vision impaired are twice as likely to have a fall, four to eight times likely to suffer from a hip fracture, enter nursing homes five years early, have a reduced life expectancy and are at three times the risk of depression.”
“Doing something effective about vision loss and eye care offers tremendous savings.”
Ms Vanstone said government, non-government, private and community sectors need to work together more effectively and spend eye health dollars more wisely to “avoid duplication, overlap, and waste”.
Australia cannot afford to keep ballooning its health care costs. We have to invest in well founded, evidence based prevention, early detection, early intervention and support measures that keep people engaged in the social and economic life of our communities.
Ms Vanstone said failure to invest in eye health in Australia and the Indo-Pacific region would be short-sighted.
“There are oceans of people out there, with preventable blindness and vision loss. It has a dramatic effect on their capacity as individuals to contribute to the economy.”
“Doing something effective about preventable vision loss is good for economies and especially good for women and girls.”
Ms Vanstone said the scale of the problem was staggering and that the impacts of blindness and vision loss were far reaching.
One in five of the world’s poorest people live with a disability. Disability can leave you shut out in so many ways and reinforces the problem which is why there is a strong correlation between blindness and vision impairment, poverty, education levels, and housing access,” she said.
The full World Sight Day National Press Address is available on ABC iView: http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/national-press-club-address/NC1406C037S00
Louise Rudzki, Vision 2020 Australia, (03) 9656 2020, +61 414 784 359 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Download this media release in PDF here.