An “emerging eye health crisis”
Local optometrists, and their patients, are helping to advance a national movement aimed at dealing with an “emerging crisis in eye health.”
At their Main Street, Alexandria practice, Dr. Geneviève Raby and Dr. Josh Smith have been circulating a petition calling on the federal government to create a national framework for action to promote vision health and prevent vision loss.
The response has been good, reflecting the support the campaign has received across the country, notes Dr. Smith, who is president of the Ontario Association of Optometrists. On a national level, more than 25,000 people have signed the petition, relates Laurèl Craib-Laurin, Senior Manager of Government and Stakeholder Relations with the Canadian Association of Optometrists, which initiated the lobbying effort. The petition is being sponsored by Deputy Speaker Carole Hughes, MP for Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, whose staff members say it is one of the most successful petition campaigns they have seen. To date, over 1,000 copies, with at least 25 individual signatures, have been received.
The Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) is also calling on the government to establish a a national public awareness campaign on the importance of vision health.
“Currently, nothing exists at the federal level to directly promote vision and eye care to the public or to the various ministries and agencies responsible for eye health care across the country, both federal and provincial,” notes Dr. Smith, who was a member of the Council of the CAO, representing Ontario, from November 2014 to April 2018.
The number of Canadians with vision loss is expected to double in the next 20 years, notes the petition.
“The emerging crisis in eye health and vision care affects all segments of the Canadian population,” it continues, with the most vulnerable people, such as children, seniors, diabetics and indigenous peoples, being at particular risk.
Just one per cent of the total expenditures on vision loss is invested in post-vision loss of rehabilitation therapy.
The CAO stresses that over 75 per cent of vision loss is preventable, but the number of blind and visually impaired Canadians has increased 37 per cent in the last 10 years.
Vision loss has the highest direct health care cost of any other disease. By 2032, vision loss is expected to cost Canadians $30.3 billion. Meanwhile, one in four school-aged children has a vision problem.
NATIONAL DRIVE: Dr. Josh Smith, president of the Ontario Association of Optometrists, is helping further a push for a national program to treat an “emerging crisis.”