As Democrats and Republicans continue to battle over how to reduce the staggering cost of health care in the U.S., one contributing factor has received relatively little attention: the high cost of poor vision. That may be because the costs are sometimes hidden or linked with other costs.

For example, did you know that the avoidable annual direct cost of falls and hip fractures among the vision-impaired elderly in the U.S. is about $352 million? This alarming statistic, based on an Australian study, was released recently by the Vision Impact Institute, a Paris-based organization funded by Essilor that is measuring the effects and association of poor vision and economic performance on a global level. It maintains that such injuries can be largely avoided if people could see better. Toward that end, the Vision Impact Institute advocates greater access to vision care.

Other studies reinforce the point. The World Health Organiz-ation (WHO) estimates the cost of lost productivity due to poor vision at about $267 billion per year around the world. That includes countries such as France, who loses about $11 million per day and $59 million in the U.S.

According to the Vision Impact Institute, 91 percent of seniors are affected in some way by poor vision. With poor vision, the risk of falls and hip fractures increases nearly sevenfold, causing direct costs. For example, costs due to vision-related injuries were $53 million in France and $102 million in Germany.

Poor vision also affects drivers. An Italian study estimated that 59 percent of road accidents are due to poor vision, the Vision Impact Institute reports.

The Vision Impact Institute is examining the cost of poor vision on a macro level. But suppose we look at it on a micro level. If you’re an eyecare professional or optical retailer, try to calculate the cost of poor vision for your individual patients and customers, as well as for their families and businesses. It may be tough to come up with an actual figure, but consider the cost to their quality of life. I can’t think of a more compelling reason to get a regular eye exam.

Andrew Karp
Group Editor, Lenses and Technology