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A Q and A with Dr Rishi Raj Borah on the recently published report from Orbis on cost benefit analysis of investing in child eye health which evaluates and establishes the impact of childhood blindness on India’s economy.
The report on Cost-Benefit Analysis of Investing in Child Eye Health is an effort towards showcasing the imperativeness of investing child eye health by evaluating and establishing the impact of childhood blindness on India’s economy. The report reflects the economic losses incurred by India due to lost productive years due to childhood blindness. There are 9.3 million visually impaired and 270,000 blind children in India. The current prevalence of blindness in children is known to be around 0.8/1000. However, over 75 % of all visual impairment can be prevented or treated. Directing investment towards addressing the growing economic burden of childhood blindness is essential towards preventing avoidable blindness.
Blindness in childhood has far-reaching consequences for the affected child and family that permeate through difference spheres of life including education, employment, interpersonal relationships, and social acceptance and prospects throughout life. This can further push the individual and their family into the vicious cycle and poverty and dependency. Mitigating childhood blindness can help individuals become productive and contributing members of the society and enable them to stir up change within their communities. These ripples of change would further contribute to the economy by preventing the loss of USD 118 billion annually in cumulative gross national income.
Estimates on the economic burden of childhood blindness help in planning interventions in India and judiciously allocate resources, tailored to the needs of the community. This report will help drive initiatives in eye care by policymakers, public health professionals, community-based organizations, educators, and academicians, among others. The report is the first of its kind since 1997 and is aimed at updating the economic burden of childhood blindness post 1998. Orbis endeavors to strengthen the foundation of the eye care ecosystem with research-based interventions to encourage investment in treatment and prevention of avoidable blindness
Some of the most interesting findings of this study are-
The indirect cost of blindness in children has increased three times. This may be due to the increase in per capita income, economic productivity and increase in lifespan of the population and more people contributing to labour force. This is a significant development, as the economic productivity and per capita income rise, the economic impact of childhood blindness on the economy is more severe.
More research is needed to identify and analyze intangible costs and qualitative aspects of blindness. This will give the social and cultural aspect of children with childhood blindness and visual impairment, for instance, gender, societal and cultural impact, and the quality of life of the child and family. There is also a need for more concrete disaggregated surveys to get the prevalence of childhood blindness. Further, the economic burden could be different in different parts of the country. But it could not be ascertained due to the lack of region-specific prevalence and economic data for adults and children.
Early and targeted intervention towards ocular morbidity in children is needed as opposed to the late consequence of blindness in children when reversal of visual disability is difficult.
Prevalence data combined with cost-effectiveness analyses will give us a robust picture and help us in appropriate resource allocations towards ocular morbidities in children. The economic burden of blindness in children has become a rallying point in advocacy with the local and national governments and also at the global platforms. This information can help inform the planning and decision making and contribute to the knowledge base in the country.
Focus on Child Eye Health engages some of the world’s best and brightest thought leaders throughout the year to share knowledge, inspire action, discuss ideas and push Child Eye Health to the forefront of pressing development issues. It is supported by CooperVision.