Deborah Keller

CEO TCS Healthcare Technologies

 

How often is one alerted to a potential health concern by “seeing” a change in their body? A mole, new bruise, strange bump, change in color of skin, mucous membranes, or even the visual of the different outputs from the body such as blood, urine and others? It’s challenging enough that many health issues occur without symptoms or actually “feeling” anything, but imagine if you also couldn’t visualize when things go wrong or change in your body? Impairment doesn’t even need to be full blindness to hinder one’s health– even the loss of vision from aging eyes can make it very difficult to notice outward changes in one’s health.

Vision impairment itself is a chronic condition and major public health problem. A publication by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Improving the Nation’s Vision Health notes visual disability to be “one of the top 10 disabilities amongst adults 18 years and older and the single most prevalent disabling condition among children.” Its prevalence is expected to double over the next 30 years.

Effects of visual impairment include significant restrictions to independence, mobility, and ability to perform household and personal tasks.  From a health maintenance perspective, reading and understanding instructions such as medication labels, physician treatment plans and discharge instructions can significantly hinder adherence to recommended care plans.

Being visually impaired often negatively impacts other chronic conditions by making it challenging for people to engage in self-care and attend medical appointments. Administering medications can be especially difficult particularly if it involves dosing and administration of things such as insulin or other injectable medications, putting the visually impaired at further risk of complications from medication errors.

Quality of life can suffer in the visually impaired, bringing on both physically and mentally unhealthy days that can lead to overall dissatisfaction with life. Difficulty getting around can lead to inactivity and in some cases put one at higher risk for obesity or activity related injuries. Falls, fractures, injuries, and social isolation can negatively impact a blind person’s health and put them at increased risk for comorbidities. These complicating factors can lead to both indirect and direct rises in the healthcare costs for the visually impaired.

While there have been no significant studies on the economic impact of vision loss or the cost benefit of promoting eye and vision health, it is safe to say that a population health approach targeted in these areas, can not only decrease costs, but improve the quality of life and health outcomes for the visually impaired.

CDC recommendations include “engaging key national partners, collaborating with state and local health departments, implementing vision  surveillance and evaluation systems, focusing on at risk populations, integrating vision health interventions into existing public health programs, addressing the role of behavior in protecting and optimizing vision health, professional workforce development and establishing an applied public health research agenda for vision health.”

Thus, promoting and sustaining vision health and the quality of life for all will require a clear public and population health vision!