Staggering Cost of Vision Loss Underscores Urgent Need for National Vision Health Plan, Says Landmark Report

    TORONTO, June 23 /CNW/ - Groundbreaking new research released today by
CNIB and the Canadian Ophthalmological Society (COS) places the total
financial cost of vision loss in Canada at $15.8 billion per year -
significantly higher than previously estimated. The study's proponents say
these costs, which are expected to increase dramatically in the years ahead,
underscore the urgent need for Canada to develop a comprehensive national
vision health plan.
    The $15.8 billion price tag for vision loss includes $8.6 billion in
direct health-related costs - the highest of such costs of any disease
category in Canada including diabetes, all cancers and cardiovascular disease.
It also includes $7.2 billion in indirect costs, including lost productivity
and earnings, care and rehabilitation and assistive devices.
    The study is also the first to attribute a value to the human toll of
vision loss on Canadians who are directly affected. This burden of disease
adds a further $11.7 billion to the bill for Canada - the largest of all costs
attributed to vision loss.
    "The findings from this study represent the most definitive data now
available about the cost of vision loss in Canada," says Dr. Alan Cruess,
Professor and Head District Chief Department of Ophthalmology, Dalhousie
University/Capital Health and past president of COS. "With the demographic
shift, we know these costs will spiral upwards and overburden our healthcare
system unless we take action now."
    The study also examined who bears the cost of vision loss, finding that
the largest financial costs come out of taxpayers' pockets: federal and
provincial governments bear 55 per cent of the costs and "all of society"
bears a further 19 per cent. Individuals with vision loss bear significant
personal costs totaling $3.5 billion annually.
    "When I lost my vision five years ago, I went from being employed and
independent to living on CPP with little hope of another job in my community.
I had to go to another province for additional assessments which the
provincial government paid for," says Terry Gardner, 51, of Newfoundland. "But
vision loss affected so much more than my financial bottom line. Depression,
lost friendships and strain on my personal relationships - all these were the
costs of vision loss to me."
    Today's troubling new statistics underscore the urgent need for Canada to
create a comprehensive plan to address all aspects of vision health and vision
loss. Such a plan could reduce the financial and human costs of vision loss
through cost-effective preventative measures, improved access to proven
treatments, and employment accommodation and rehabilitation services for
people affected by vision loss.
    Although the Canadian government made a commitment to the World Health
Organization in 2003 to create such a plan, they have yet to do so.
    "The Canadian government needs to develop and implement a comprehensive
vision health plan now," says John M. Rafferty, CNIB President and CEO. "Some
interim measures have been taken, but we literally can't afford to wait any
longer. Every year we wait, more than 45,000 Canadians lose their vision.
Every year that goes by costs Canadians $15.8 billion."
    As Canada's foremost vision health organization, CNIB is eager to work
with government leaders and the private sector to shape and guide future
policy for healthcare funding and support for people with vision loss.
    "CNIB is eager to be a part of building this plan, but the scope of the
effort far eclipses our role as a donor-funded charity focused on delivering
services," says Rafferty. "The government must act now to make vision health a
public health priority."

    About the Study

    The Cost of Vision Loss in Canada was commissioned by CNIB and the
Canadian Ophthalmological Society (COS) in 2008 and conducted by Access
Economics Pty Limited, a world-leading independent economic consulting firm
who are specialists in model-based health forecasting and analysis. The firm
has previously completed cost of vision loss studies in Australia and in the
United States. Using prevalence-based and conservative methodology, The Cost
of Vision Loss in Canada builds on existing authoritative sources of Canadian
data and research (as of 2007). The research takes into account Canada's
multicultural society and future demographic trends. It uses known costs
wherever possible accurately reflecting real Canadian expenditures and
government policies.

    About CNIB

    CNIB is a nationwide, community-based, registered charity committed to
public education, research and the vision health of all Canadians. CNIB
provides the services and support necessary to enjoy a good quality of life,
while living with vision loss. Please visit

    About the Canadian Ophthalmological Society (COS)

    The COS is the national specialty society representing eye physicians and
surgeons whose mission is to assure the provision of comprehensive eye care to
all Canadians.

For further information:

For further information: or to request an interview, please contact:
Ellen Woodger at (416) 483-2358; Yeena Peng, CNIB, at (416) 486-2500 ext.

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