Preventable Vision Loss in Rising in Canada: How Can Healthcare Keep Up?

Recently, healthcare reports state that preventable vision issues for Canadians are on the rise across the country. In large part, this may be because citizens still have to pay out-of-pocket for eye health services despite the country’s healthcare system offering universal coverage. From young children to the elderly, this prevalent problem underscores the urgent need for Canadian healthcare systems to keep up in order to safeguard the future of its citizens’ eye health. Here’s more on the issue and how healthcare can keep up to address it:

Photo by Bud Helisson on Unsplash

The Recent History and Current State of Canada’s Eye Care

A closer look at the recent history of vision and eye health in Canada reveals that, collectively, many Canadians are going through gradual vision deterioration. A Clearly report on eye care suggests that at least 44% of Canadians admit that they experience eyesight problems a few times every month. The population’s growing reliance on digital screens for work, school, or recreation, paired with a general lack of proper eye care, has converged to create the perfect storm.

This situation might be even more dire in rural areas, where affordable and accessible eye care might not be fully available. In provinces like British Columbia, about 40% of residents haven’t had an eye check-up in over two years. With the nationwide population affected by a collective post-quarantine lifestyle, the current reality is that an eye health crisis has sneaked into the periphery of Canadians’ lives, and it’s high time for the healthcare systems to address this.

How Canadian Healthcare Systems Are Striving to Keep Up

In response to this escalating crisis, healthcare systems in Canada are strategizing to address the uptick in the population’s preventable vision issues. Regular eye exams are always being emphasized as the number one preventative measure. In fact, according to the Ontario Association of Optometrists, up to 75% of vision loss can be treated if detected early.

Eye check-ups can provide timely detection of sight problems at their early stages, paving the way for effective interventions like corrective lenses and lifestyle adjustments. However, Canadians might not be fully receptive to heeding this widespread advice. According to the aforementioned Clearly report, a significant percentage of Canadians neglect their routine eye exams, either due to a lack of awareness or a misguided belief that their vision is fine.

However, the healthcare system’s initiatives shouldn’t be the only efforts made to promote eye health on a nationwide scale. Eventual success will rely on high-level societal and systemic changes, as well. Public awareness campaigns and widespread promotion of outdoor activities in schools to counterbalance screen time can be effective strategies to prevent vision problems at an early age. On the flip side, prominent institutions for vision care in Canada, such as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), have strongly called upon the government to allocate sufficient funding for support.

What the Future of Canada’s Vision Care Might Look Like

The current trajectory of Canada’s status regarding vision care is raising concerns about what may lie ahead. As per research from Fighting Blindness Canada, vision loss in Canada totals up to $32.9 billion, creating an enormous impact on individuals and communities. For this reason, the Honourable Judy Sgro, the current representative of Humber-River-Black Creek, introduced a Private Member bill called C-284, “An Act to Establish a National Strategy for Eye Care.” As of writing, the bill has passed its first and second readings and has yet to reach its final stage.

The future of Canada’s vision care might have some hope yet, but there is still a long way to go. Healthcare systems, policymakers, educators, and community leaders all have a role to play in shaping the country’s general eye health.