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Vision loss costs New Zealand billions

Vision loss costs New Zealand billions

3 August, 2011

Largely preventable vision loss cost New Zealand society $2.8 billion in 2009 and this figure is increasing each year, according to research released yesterday by VISION 2020 New Zealand.

Clear Focus, an economic impact report undertaken by Australian researchers, Access Economics, shows that direct health costs alone as a result of vision loss added $198 million to New Zealand’s health system expenditure in the same year.

It also reveals that Māori are disproportionately affected by vision loss, with those aged 45-74 years twice more likely to experience blindness than non-Māori.

Health Committee Chair Dr Paul Hutchison, who hosted last night’s Parliamentary event to launch the findings, says he is concerned by the figures.

“These numbers are alarming for all New Zealanders,” Dr Hutchison says. “Costs of this size, not to mention the impact on people’s lives, dramatically affect our society and our health care system.”

The Government has repeatedly supported the World Health Organization’s goal to eliminate avoidable blindness by 2020. However VISION 2020 New Zealand Chair, Don McKenzie, cautions that with less than 10 years to go until 2020, it is vital that political commitment is backed with action.

“New Zealand is one of the only developed countries in the world that does not have a national plan and budget for the prevention of vision loss,” Mr. McKenzie says.

“The Clear Focus research predicts that without such a plan, by 2020 approximately 174,000 New Zealanders over 40 will have vision loss and 18,300 will be blind.”

VISION 2020 New Zealand is working with the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind and cbm New Zealand, along with other not for profit and eye health sector organisations to build support for a comprehensive national eye health strategy.

They are encouraging all New Zealanders to show their support for such a strategy by signing the Clear Focus online support statement at www.facebook.com/VISION2020NZ.

Organisations wanting to lend their support can endorse the Clear Focus consensus statement at www.vision2020.net.nz.

ENDS

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