Latest Global Blindness & VI prevalence figures published in Lancet

Tejah Balantrapu

Children getting their eyes examinedNew paper notes that there were 253 million people with visual impairment—and a staggering 1.1 billion people with near vision impairment–in 2015. This Vision Loss Expert Group paper sets the stage for an updated IAPB Vision Atlas on World Sight Day 2017. 

A paper published today in the Lancet estimates that there were 36 million people who were blind and 217 million people with severe or moderate visual impairment (MSVI), making a total of 253 million people who were visually impaired, in 2015. It also estimates that 1.1 billion people have near-vision impairment—a condition that can be corrected with spectacles.

The paper, published in the Lancet by the Vision Loss Expert Group (VLEG), provides the latest global estimates of the prevalence of blindness and MSVI in the world. By analysing data from 1990 to 2015, the VLEG have employed a sophisticated methodology to produce these detailed estimates, which also includes projections to 2020 for the first time.

Key Findings:

  • 36 million people who are blind
  • 217 million people with severe or moderate visual impairment (distance)
  • 253 million people visually impaired (in 2015)
  • 1.1 billion people with near-vision impairment
  • The prevalence of visual impairment has dropped from 4.58% in 1990 to 3.38% in 2015.
  • 89% of visually impaired people live in low and middle-income countries
  • 55% of visually impaired people are women

This paper—the first among a series of papers appearing on the new data–reflects positively on the efforts of the global eye health sector over the years. However, how do we ensure that these estimates fit into the planning and implementation of new eye care projects and advocacy work with governments across the world? The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) are working closely to update the IAPB Vision Atlas—a resource that brings together the latest data on blindness prevention and visual impairment.

Along with these estimates, the IAPB Vision Atlas will host causes data and country-level progress indicators, plus commentary from experts on a variety of eye health issues. By bringing all this information together, the Vision Atlas becomes a powerful tool for advocacy, planning and fund-raising.

An updated IAPB Vision Atlas, with the latest published estimates from VLEG and updated country indicator data will go live on World Sight Day 2017 (12 October 2017).

“The VLEG global prevalence estimates present a very satisfactory trend” notes Peter Ackland, CEO, IAPB. “It is heartening to note that our collective efforts are leading to meaningful change across the world. I cannot wait for the IAPB Vision Atlas to aid these efforts”.