Two-Thirds of World’s Blind are Women: Study

LONDON – Two-thirds of blind people worldwide are women and girls, and the gender bias has resulted in men and boys having twice the access to eye-care, says an international agency in a report to mark the “World Sight Day” Thursday.

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness says in most developing countries, women are less likely to receive eye care services than men, and that additionally, women comprise more than half of the elderly population.

“The natural incidence of some blinding diseases, like cataract and trachoma, is higher among women than men, which results in a situation where women account for nearly two-thirds of blind people worldwide.”

Some of the key findings of the report are:

-Equal access to eye care could substantially reduce blindness in poor countries

-Simple and effective strategies can address the inequity within 2020

-80 percent of blindness is avoidable and can be prevented, cured or treated

-45 million people worldwide are blind, and 269 million are vision impaired

-90 percent of blind people live in low-income countries

-The world’s leading cause of blindness is cataract

-Cataract is curable by simple, cost-effective operation

“Blindness and severe visual impairment from cataract could be reduced by around 11 percent in low- and middle-income countries if women were to receive cataract surgery at the same rate as men,” says the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

Accordingly, the new report recommends strategies that are simple and achievable with the hope that they will contribute significantly to reducing blindness in developing countries.

“The systematic approach to ‘gender and blindness’ can serve as a model to help other health areas to address gender inequity.”

The World Sight Day is an international day of awareness, commemorated annually on the second Thursday of October to focus attention on the global issue of avoidable blindness and visual impairment.

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