As Congress begins its process of drafting appropriations legislation for Fiscal Year 2022, Prevent Blindness has sent a letter to House and Senate appropriators with the support of 115 organizations to urge Congress to fund the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vision and Eye Health program at $5 million and glaucoma prevention at $4 million. Without these investments, vision impairments will continue to come at a great cost to the United States—nearly $177 billion in 2021 with national expenditures projected to top $717 billion by 2050. This funding will help update national-level estimates of vision loss and eye disease, which is urgently needed in light of such trends as our rapidly aging population, the rise of chronic disease rates, major shifts in our national population demographics, and disparities in access across racial and ethnic populations, low-income communities, and underserved or rural areas.
The letter states: “The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed where the circumstances that lead to vision loss and eye disease—such as the presence of chronic disease, disparities across such populations as those belonging to diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic circumstances, and age—intersect with the novel coronavirus and its most serious consequences. Vision impairments and eye disease often contribute to or are complicated by other serious and costly chronic health conditions, including diabetes, stroke, depression, social isolation, cognitive decline, and injuries related to falls. Access to quality, preventive eye care that can help detect sight-threatening eye disease for underserved communities and high-risk populations was fractured before the pandemic. Vision problems will likely worsen as children, working-age adults, and the elderly have been unable or felt unsafe to access preventive care during the pandemic.”
In addition, because early detection and treatment are cost-effective and fundamental approaches to slowing glaucoma progression, with sustained funding in FY2022, the CDC can continue glaucoma detection, referral, and sustained treatment through cooperative and cost-effective public-private partnerships and innovative outreach and service delivery projects that have successfully reached high-risk and underserved populations.
Read the House letter and Senate letter. For additional information on Prevent Blindness advocacy, visit Improving Vision and Eye Health at the CDC.