It pays to invest in the elimination of avoidable blindness


In Australia 90 per cent of vision loss and blindness is preventable or treatable. What’s more, investing in preventative eye health will not only have an immense social impact, it will help the government’s bottom line in the Federal Budget.

Globally, measures to improve or restore sight are among the most cost effective of all healthcare interventions, returning $4 for every $1 invested.

Carla Northam, CEO of Vision 2020 Australia, says: ‘Despite the social and economic incentive to invest in preventative eye health, more than 453,000 Australians are living with vision impairment or blindness .

‘It’s deeply concerning that many Australians are unaware of the importance of, or don’t have access to, regular eye examinations critical to detecting eye conditions.

‘The 2016 National Eye Health Survey found more than 50 per cent of participants with an eye condition weren’t aware of their condition before taking part in the research.

‘Fortunately, the eye health and vision care sector knows what works, what is cost effective and what needs to be done for significant progress to be made in the elimination of avoidable blindness.

‘Now we need the Australian Government’s support. We are calling on the government to strengthen our nation’s preventative health system in its 2017-18 Federal Budget.’

David Andrews, Chair of Vision 2020 Australia’s Prevention and Early Intervention Committee and CEO of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists, says it is vital to make preventive health, particularly eye health and vision care, a funding priority.

‘Around 80 per cent of all blindness and vision loss in Australia is attributed to one of five major conditions: age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and uncorrected refractive error,’ Dr Andrews says.

‘The sobering fact is all of these conditions can be prevented or treated if detected early. Instead, they cost the Australian economy an estimated $16 billion annually.

‘Almost 40 per cent of Indigenous Australians and 13 per cent of non-Indigenous Australians who need cataract surgery have not accessed specialist treatment.

‘Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in working-age Australians. By 2030 it’s predicted that 2.45 million Australians will be living with diabetes, yet, according to Medicare data, 80 per cent of Indigenous and 50 per cent of non-Indigenous Australians do not have an eye check at the recommended frequency.

‘The eye health and vision care sector are working hard to develop innovative programs like a national Diabetes Blindness Prevention Initiative, and we call on the Australian Government to collaborate with the sector to implement solutions that will work.’

Ms Northam says it is essential to lift the freeze on Medicare indexation to ensure equitable and affordable access to eye health specialists.

‘The Medicare indexation freeze has adversely affected access to optometrists, who are on the frontline of eye care, ensuring prevention, treatment and referral to specialist services and ophthalmologists,’ Ms Northam says.

‘Vision 2020 Australia urges the Australian Government to follow through on indications that it will lift the Medicare freeze when the budget is handed down on 9 May. ‘The government must recognise that primary, secondary and tertiary eye health and vision care is an integral part of Australia’s overall health system.’ 

See our full 2017-18 Federal Budget analysis


For more information: Adam Sawell at Vision 2020 Australia

03 9656 2020, 0401 096 507 or

About Vision 2020 Australia

As the national peak body for the eye health and vision care sector, Vision 2020 Australia represents over 50 member organisations involved in: local and global eye care; health promotion; low vision support; vision rehabilitation; eye research; professional assistance; and community support. Established in October 2000, Vision 2020 Australia is part of VISION 2020: The Right to Sight, a global initiative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).