In Ireland 224,000 adults and children are living with sight threatening conditions. Without timely and appropriate access to eye care this number is set to increase to 275,000 by 2020. This represents almost 7% of the population.
The National Vision Coalition (NVC), today launched its Election Manifesto 2016, calling on the next government to publish and implement a National Vision Strategy for Ireland.
The coalition is comprised of: NCBI (Chair), Fighting Blindness (Chair), Irish College of Ophthalmologists, Association of Optometrists Ireland, Diabetes Ireland, Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, ChildVision, HSE, and, The National Rehabilitation Hospital. Today they outlined the four key areas that need to be prioritised when developing party Manifestos for the General Election 2016 and subsequent Programme for Government.
In 2013, the Coalition put forward its recommendations for a national vision strategy in a report, “Framework to Adopt a Strategic Approach for Vision Health in Ireland”, and highlighted eight principles to be implemented.
In April 2014, the National Vision Coalition launched The Economic Cost and Burden of Eye Diseases and Preventable Blindness in Ireland. This report, which looked at the Irish situation as part of a pan-European study of 16 countries, shows that 75-80% of blindness is preventable. It also found that blindness and vision impairment cost the state €205 million in 2010 but investment in cost-effective interventions could save up to €76 million per annum.
Mr Des Kenny, Co-Chair of the National Vision Coalition said ‘As we head towards 2020 it brings into sharp focus the commitments that were made by the World Health Organisation and our political leaders with respect to the Vision 2020 strategy. We, in Ireland, signed up to this strategy in 2003 and this commits us to eliminating preventable blindness in Ireland by 2020’.
Mr David Keegan, Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Mater Hospital Dublin (pictured left) said ’Through the work of this coalition we have identified that there is a significant economic and financial burden associated with vision impairment and blindness in this country aside from the obvious morbidity and co-existent health issues for those with sight loss. It is now known that those with blindness and vision impairment are up to eight times more likely to suffer from depression, three times more likely to suffer a serious fall and on average enter the care home services three years sooner than the normally sighted population. The obvious humanity that comes from tackling blindness is matched by a sound economic argument’
Ms Lynda McGivney Nolan of the Association of Optometrists Ireland said, ‘People cannot afford to wait any longer for fair and accessible eye care. The lack of a cohesive strategy will mean further burdens on our healthcare system down the line. It is a situation that is affecting Irish citizens from birth to old age’. In her closing remarks she stated ‘The National Vision Coalition is working hard to ensure care pathways are achievable and implementable. We are working with government agencies to support them in this endeavour, we will continue to work together to achieve our collective goal’.
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