by Dan Roberts
As our older population grows and the number of care providers dwindle, doctors fear that their ability to provide sufficient care will soon begin to be overburdened by the sheer number of people who will need it. A low vision rehabilitation delivery system is in place, but it can work only if enough care providers are in place to steer it.
Unless cures are found in the next few years, the demand for treatment will grow tremendously, and the burden on society will become even greater. The annual economic impact of eye care in the United States is estimated at 51 billion dollars, not counting the cost of refraction correction. According to James M. Tielsch, PhD (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) in a presentation to Academy 2007, we can expect the demand for services to flood the system by 2015. This will be due to increases in life expectancy, prevalence of diabetes and eye problems, availability of treatments outpacing primary prevention and (hopefully) improvements to the health care system as it becomes available to more people.
What can we do to help? First, we can slow the onslaught by practicing good prevention measures. It may be too late for those who are already in the system, but we can certainly help spread the word to others who need to understand the risks of poor diet, smoking, insufficient exercise and eye protection. We must do this not just for their sake, but for our own sake, by keeping our quality of care from diminishing as even more people crowd into the waiting rooms.
Another thing we can do is to encourage our doctors to stress the importance of low vision evaluation and rehabilitation. The easiest way to do that is to hand our caregivers the information about the low vision rehabilitation delivery model found on this site. This is important information for both professionals and patients, as we work in partnership toward maintaining an effective continuum of care during the coming years.