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Updated Vision Atlas shows 1.1 billion people have vision loss

Updated Vision Atlas shows 1.1 billion people have vision loss due to no access to eyecare services.
Published: 08.10.2020
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To mark World Sight Day 2020 the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) has updated its Vision Atlas with new estimates on the magnitude, projections and causes of vision loss from The Vision Loss Expert Group (VLEG).

The key messages from the VLEG papers on magnitude and causes are:

  • 1.1 billion people experience vision loss primarily because they do not have access to eye care services1.
  • The number of people with vision loss will rise from 1.1 billion to 1.7 billion people by 2050, mainly due to population growth and population ageing1.
  • Over 90% of vision loss is avoidable. 2
  • The leading causes of vision loss include2:
    • Uncorrected refractive error, which is responsible for distance vision loss in 161 million people and near vision loss in an additional 510 million people.
    • Unoperated cataracts, responsible for vision loss in 100 million people.
    • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy accounting for 8.1 million, 7.8 million and 4.4 million people with vision loss respectively.

The IAPB Vision Atlas is a wealth of information relevant to policy makers, health planners, eye health professionals, NGOs, patient groups and advocates. Given that so much of avoidable sight loss is a consequence of inequity and lack of access for the most disadvantaged members of our global community, the IAPB Vision Atlas is an important resource for those responsible for achieving universal health coverage and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. The 2020 update provides a rich mix of data, narrative and interactive presentation tools that make it easy to understand and present complex data sets to a broad audience.

The Vision Atlas has been supported by the Allergan (an AbbVie company), Bayer, Seva Foundation and Sightsavers.

Commenting on the update to the Vison Atlas, IAPB Chief Executive Officer, Peter Holland said “IAPB is pleased to launch an updated version of our Vision Atlas to coincide with World Sight Day. The new data contained in the Vision Atlas will be an important tool for the sector both for advocacy and academic purposes. IAPB would like to acknowledge the work of the Vision Loss Expert Group and thank the Allergan, Bayer, Seva Foundation and Sightsavers for their support of the Vision Atlas.”

This year’s theme for World Sight Day is ‘Hope in Sight’. It reflects both optimism about the future despite the extraordinary challenges of the past months; and the hope and opportunity that good eye health and eye care can bring people with sight. It is our aim with the Vision Atlas that we can show in an accessible way the impact that good quality eye care can have on people’s lives, for example enabling children to benefit from education, working adults to keep their jobs and older people to participate in their families and communities.

Professor Rupert Bourne of Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge and coordinator of the Vision Loss Expert Group said “It is encouraging that age-adjusted prevalence of blindness has reduced over the past three decades, yet due to population growth, progress is not keeping pace with needs. We face enormous challenges in avoiding vision impairment as the global population grows and ages. One of the issues we faced when compiling this data is that for many countries, including those from high income regions, there is a lack of accurate information due to the fact the population has not been officially surveyed for eye disease and its consequences. High quality, current data on eye health is needed in order to plan services effectively to improve outcomes. On behalf of VLEG, we are delighted that this information on prevalence and burden of disease can reach any internet user in order to empower them and make the data ‘actionable’.”

In welcoming the launch of the new data, Charles Holmes, Associate Vice President, Global Eye Care, Allergan, an AbbVie Company, said, “We know that the need for eye care is set to increase dramatically in the coming decades,3 due in part to an ageing population and associated eye diseases.4  This will pose a considerable challenge to global health systems. What the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness’s Vision Atlas does is provide a wealth of incredibly rich evidence and data that will guide the vital work of all those striving to improve the lives of people at risk of and living with eye disease.”

Jan Voss, VP & Head of Ophthalmology at Bayer, said: “Data on the global magnitude and projections of vision loss is crucial for improving understanding of eye health needs, especially around the access of eyecare services. This updated IAPB Vision Atlas is a powerful and accessible tool, and it will greatly support our collective efforts to reduce the number of people impacted by visual impairment around the world.”

Dominic Haslam, Sightsavers’ Deputy CEO, said “There are far too many people across the world who have visual impairments that could have been prevented – and most can’t access or afford essential eye care services like a pair of glasses to help them drive, read or work.

This World Sight Day, it is more important than ever that we celebrate how important sight is for everyone, everywhere. The devastation of COVID-19 meant many people did not get the sight-saving treatment needed, and we now need to make sure they do.  Eye health is simple and cost effective but makes a real difference to people’s lives, and as we build back health services post-COVID we need to make sure it is included.”

Suzanne S Gilbert Senior Director, Research & Strategic Opportunities at Seva Foundation said “The IAPB Vision Atlas marks a breakthrough in making clear, current, comprehensive eye care information available at the national and regional level. It is a rich resource for eye care practitioners, planners, advocates, and policy makers. The Atlas’ interactive structure enables rapid access to data, cases, and other information so vital in our connected world. The greatest success of the Atlas will be its stimulating more members of the global eye health community to generate data which can be shared so as to leapfrog our efforts.”

The Vision Atlas is a compilation of the latest data and evidence in global eye health, drawing on data from the VLEG publications, the World Report on Vision5 and other relevant sources.


[1] Bourne, Rupert, Jaimie Adelson, Seth Flaxman, Paul S. Briant, Hugh R. Taylor, Robert J. Casson, et al. Trends in Prevalence of Blindness and Distance and Near Vision Impairment Over 30 Years and Contribution to the Global Burden of Disease in 2020. The Lancet Global Health, 2020. Advanced online publication doi:10.2139/ssrn.3582742

[2] Adelson, Jaimie, Rupert R.A. Bourne, Paul S Briant, Seth Flaxman, Hugh Taylor, Jost B. Jonas, et al. Causes of Blindness and Vision Impairment in 2020 and Trends over 30 Years : Evaluating the Prevalence of Avoidable Blindness in Relation to “ VISION 2020 : The Right to Sight ”. The Lancet Global Health, 2020.  Under review.

[3] World report on vision ISBN 978-92-4-151657-0 © World Health Organization 2019.

[4] United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2020). World Population Ageing 2019 (ST/ESA/SER.A/444).

[5] World report on vision ISBN 978-92-4-151657-0 © World Health Organization 2019.