“What can we do to help reduce the toll of vision problems?”
This is the essential question facing patients, their families and caregivers, healthcare professionals, researchers and policymakers involved in eye and visual health. But before we can begin to properly address this question we must know where we currently stand in terms of the scale and impacts of vision problems, and also understand where we are headed in the future if nothing is done.
In 2012, Prevent Blindness helped show us where we currently stand in terms of the scale of vision problems with the release of Vision Problems in the U.S., a comprehensive accounting of the current prevalence of vision problems in America. With the release of The Cost of Vision Problems in 2013, we knew for the first time the full costs and quality of life impacts of these vision problems across the entire U.S. population and economy.
Now, in The Future of Vision: Forecasting the Prevalence and Costs of Vision Problems, we build on the knowledge gained through the preceding two reports on the prevalence and costs of vision problems and forecast how their impacts may change in the coming years.
We find that the prevalence and costs of vision problems are set to grow at an alarming rate, fueled by demographic shifts including the aging of the baby-boomer population, extraordinary increases in the population in the oldest age groups, and the growth of minority populations. By 2050 we project that the prevalence of vision loss will grow by 135%, from 4.4 million to more than 10 million people. The total prevalence of cataract, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and advanced age related macular degeneration is expected to increase by 77% to nearly 70 million adults by 2050. This spectacular growth in the prevalence of vision problems will be evident in their resulting costs, with the total real costs of vision problems expected to increase by 157%, from $145 billion in 2014 to $373 billion by 2050, with total nominal expenditures in 2050 exceeding $700 billion.
In The Future of Vision, we produce one vision of the future based on current trends in visual health. However, the numbers and figures we produce are not meant to exactly predict the future; they are intended to literally show us “where we are headed in the future if nothing is done”. Based on this vision, we understand the important trends facing the field of eye and visual health in the coming decades, and the high costs of inaction if these trends continue unabated. With the completion of these three reports, we now know where we currently stand and where we are headed in the field of eye and visual health – knowledge that can help guide us as we determine “what can we do to help reduce the toll of vision problems”.