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Test And Glasses Could Dramatically Improve Lives

Test And Glasses Could Dramatically Improve Lives Of 150 Million With Poor Vision – UN

New York, Oct 11 2006 11:00AM

With millions of children losing educational opportunities and countless adults excluded from productive working lives due to easily corrected sight problems, the United Nations health agency today called for urgent action to improve access to affordable eye exams and eyeglasses for people in low and middle income countries.

“Refractive errors can be easily diagnosed, measured and corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses, yet millions of people in low and middle income countries do not have access to these basic services,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said, releasing newᾠglobal estimates that for the first time show that 153 million people around the world have such uncorrected problems.

Refractive errors refer to near-sightedness, far-sightedness and astigmatism.

“Individuals and families are frequently pushed into a cycle of deepening poverty because of their inability to see well,” WHO added of the estimates released ahead of tomorrow’s World Sight Day, noting that 90 per cent of all people with uncorrected refractive errors live in low and middle income countries.

“These results reveal the enormity of the problem,” WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health Catherine Le Galès-Camus said. “This common form of visual impairment can no longer be ignored as a target for urgent action.”

The latest numbers effectively double the estimated total of visually-impaired people worldwide, bringing it to 314 million. WHO had previously estimated that 161 million suffer from eye diseases such as cataract, glaucoma and macular degeneration. Uncorrected refractive errors were not included in these earlier estimates.

As part of the VISION 2020 Global Initiative to eliminate avoidable visual impairment and blindness worldwide, WHO has been working with its partners to improve access to affordable eye exams and eyeglasses.

“Correction of refractive errors is a simple and cost-effective intervention in eye care,” the coordinator of WHO’s Chronic Disease Prevention and Management unit, Serge Resnikoff, said.

“Now that we know the extent of the problem of uncorrected refractive errors, especially in low and middle income countries, we must re-double our efforts to ensure that every person who needs help is able to receive it,” he added.

ends

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