This Vision Health Month, don't look away…

Monday, May 1, 2017 General News
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International Federation on Ageing urges Canadians to see the 'whole picture' and advocate for their right to sight


May 1, 2017 /CNW/ - More than 50,000 Canadians lose their sight annually and there are alarming predictions that the number is expected to soar to crisis proportions in the next decade as Canada's
population ages.  The vision health landscape in Canada is rapidly changing and potential provincial policies could further impact your right to sight.

As part of the Eye See You campaign that was established in 2016 as an ongoing effort to inform and empower Canadians about their vision health, the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) is challenging Canadians of all ages during Vision Health Month to 'rethink' our traditional – and out-dated assumptions about the aging process and inevitable functional decline by focusing on ways to preserve or even improve vision as we age.  The campaign also aims to highlight current conversations about treatment access and how new policies that restrict the use of approved treatments could have a dramatic impact on a person's vision.

"Today, Canada faces a growing – yet preventable – crisis in vision health which is likely to compromise the functional ability, as well as the social and economic contributions, of older Canadians," says Dr. Jane Barratt, Secretary General, IFA.  "We cannot look away.  Now more than ever, we need to resist the urge to simply accept deterioration in our eyesight as an inevitable by-product of aging.  Aging doesn't have to mean vision loss or blindness – but Canadians must be informed and advocate for their own eye health and this is what the Eye See You campaign is all about." 

More than 5.5 million Canadians live with significant eye disease that could cause vision loss.  This number is anticipated to drastically jump due to Canada's aging population, as well as a growing incidence of key underlying causes of vision loss, such as obesity and diabetes.  It is predicted that by 2036, Canada will have as many 10.9 million seniors – double the number in 2009.   

STATE OF THE NATION'S VISIONThe personal, social, and economic costs of vision loss can be profound.  Approximately half a million Canadians live with significant vision loss that negatively impacts their quality of life.  For example, compared to people of the same age without vision problems, people with vision loss are admitted to nursing homes three years earlier, experience twice the number of falls and have three times the incidence of depression, four times as many hip fractures, and twice the mortality rate.

In 2011, the direct and indirect healthcare costs of vision loss in Canada was estimated at $15.8 billion and projected to increase to $30.3 billion by 2032.

"Vision loss is multi-dimensional with far-reaching impacts, this is quite clear," says Louise Gillis, National President, Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB). "Through campaigns like Eye See You, the CCB is actively engaged in advocating for our right to sight. The majority of Canadians are unaware of current government initiatives that could restrict the use of effective treatments, solely on the basis of cost. Along with the IFA and retina specialists, we are committed to raising concerns and collaborating with government, to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients."


Through the Eye See You campaign, the IFA encourages Canadians to have an open dialogue with their doctor and learn about potential threats to their vision health, and to support approaches and policies that provide access to approved treatments that are safe and effective.

"Protecting our autonomy as we age means being proactive about protecting our vision," explains Dr. Barratt.  "When we insist governments and health systems invest the time, expertise, and resources necessary to develop age-related policies and programs that aim to optimize the functional ability and contributions of older Canadians, we help improve the quality of life not only of the individual, but also of their family and the broader community – now is the time to take charge."

Innovation has been a game-changer for patients living with vision loss and blindness. Today, treatments that have been studied for safety and efficacy and approved for use by Health Canada are dramatically improving outcomes for patients. Many retinal conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, cataracts, and refractive error are treatable if the appropriate treatments are started in a timely manner.  Failure to treat with the most effective and safe treatment first can have serious consequences on a patient's sight, long-term.

"Having access to the right treatment for the right patient at the right time is critical to improving vision, preventing blindness and improving quality of life," says Dr. David Wong, MD, FRCSC, Ophthalmologist-in-Chief, Diseases and Surgery of the Vitreous, Retina, Macula and Choroid, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences, Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, St. Michael's Hospital. "There is no one-size-fits-all solution for complex ocular diseases.  As a result, physicians, in consultation with their patients, need to be able to determine personalised treatment regimens and care plans on the basis of a number of different patient factors – and require access to the best evidence-based and Health Canada approved treatments available."

This Vision Health Month, Canadians are encouraged to visit and learn more about emerging issues that could have dramatic impacts on the future of vision health.  The Eye See You campaign aims to empower candid conversations between patients and their physicians, as well as with family and friends on social media within their communities – see the entire picture and take action for your right to sight. 

About the International Federation on Ageing

The International Federation on Ageing is an international non-governmental organization (NGO) with its headquarters in Toronto, Canada.  The IFA has General Consultative Status at the United Nations and its agencies, including the World Health Organization.  Its goal is to be a global point of connection of experts and expertise that help to contribute to the dialogue on effective policy towards healthy aging.

About the Canadian Council of the Blind

The Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB) is a membership-based not-for-profit organization that brings together Canadians who are blind, deaf-blind or living with vision loss through chapters within their own local communities to share common interests and social activities.

CCB works to improve the quality of life for persons with vision loss through awareness, peer mentoring, socializing, sports, advocacy, health promotion and illness prevention.

SOURCE International Federation on Ageing


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