Report shows long term impact of eye disease in Aussie kids

The Save Sight Institute has released findings from a commissioned report into the socioeconomic impact of low vision and blindness from paediatric eye disease in Australia, highlighting the significant challenges faced by individuals and families affected by childhood blindness, and subsequent economic impacts more broadly

The Save Sight Institute has released findings from a commissioned report into the socioeconomic impact of low vision and blindness from paediatric eye disease in Australia.

Produced by Deloitte Access Economics, the report highlights the significant challenges faced by individuals and families affected by childhood blindness, and subsequent economic impacts more broadly.

“Early diagnosis and intervention is important” said Professor John Grigg, paediatric ophthalmologist and Head of the Discipline of Clinical Ophthalmology  at The University of Sydney, “but it is only part of the puzzle. In Australia, we have become very good at detecting eye diseases in children, but our treatment options for many remains limited.”

Genetic eye disease is recognised as a leading cause of blindness in children in developed countries, and according to Professor Robyn Jamieson, Head of the Discipline of Genetics at The University of Sydney “We are making good progress in understanding the underlying causes of  blinding eye diseases, aiming to improve diagnosis and eventually develop targeted treatments for these conditions.”

Professor Grigg continues “While we are developing new therapies it is critical we optimise the current care for children with eye patients.”

The Save Sight Institute is working towards this by introducing an innovative new patient care coordinator programme, as well as a number of new multidisiciplinary clinics (including eye genetics and  combined paediatric ophthalmology and rheumatology/uveitis clinics). These advances provide immediate benefit to young patients by streamling their care and improving links between specialties, as well as preparing individuals and families for emerging new therapies.

The report titled Open Eyes: Socioeconomic impact of low vision and blindness from paediatric eye disease reveals important insights into childhood blindness, including:

  • Refractive error (hyperopia, myopia and astigmatism) accounts for three of the top ten most common long-term health conditions in under 15 years olds;
  • Other ocular disorders and visual disturbances are more common than many other childhood conditions such as epilepsy, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis and childhood cancer;
  • In 2015 there were almost a third of a million Australian children with vision impairment or the potential to become visually impaired;
  • In 2015 the total health costs to treat children with diseases of the eye and adnexa were an estimated $439 million, or 11.3% of the total health system expenditure on eye conditions;
  • Having a vision impairment causing disability reduces the chance of being employed by almost 50%;
  • Reduced employment due to vision impairment causing disability costs the economy an estimated $50 million per year in lost productivity;
  • The estimated economic impact of vision impairment in children is $624 million per year;
  • Today’s 17 year olds can expect their lifetime real earnings to be $53,916 (NPV) lower than their colleagues without vision impairment;
  • The total cost of disability adjusted life years (DALYs) amounts to $1.31 billion, or $3,880 per child with VI in 2015.

Children’s eye health is an important and challenging issue across the world. Children require their sight for a long time, and if a vision impairment is undetected or untreated, it can substantially negatively impact a child’s quality of life. Improvements in the detection and the treatment of eye disease in childhood will not only have long-term positive outcomes for the child and their family, but will save the health system and the economy more broadly.

According to Professor Grigg “There needs to be more investment support for paediatric eye research. This is not only important for children’s quality of life, but also for the emotional and financial well being  of families. Because of this report, we now know that the cost to the public health system is substantial. We have a small window of opportunity in most cases to give children the best chance at a sighted life as the early disruption of normal visual development has long-term consequences for individuals, families, communities and nations. It is in everyone’s interests to find better ways of treating vision impairment in children.”

The Open Eyes report is available for download here: Open Eyes: Socioeconomic impact of low vision and blindness from paediatric eye disease 2016 report

To support paediatric eye disease research please donate to the Inherited and Paediatric Eye Disease group on our donation page. Please note all donations are processed by The University of Sydney.

 

 

 

 

QBE Foundation supports young people with eye disease

The QBE Foundation has donated $10,000 to support a unique initiative by Sydney’s Save Sight Institute to assist children and teenagers with low vision or blindness. The “Making Connections” information day was attended by approximately 200 people, including teenagers with vision loss, their parents and teachers. Parents and carer’s of babies and young children with eye disease were also invited to attend.

The QBE Foundation has donated $10,000 to support a unique initiative by Sydney’s Save Sight Institute to assist children and teenagers with low vision or blindness.

The “Making Connections” information day, held on Saturday 27th August in the Sydney CBD, was attended by approximately 200 people, including teenagers with vision loss, their parents and teachers. Parents and carers of babies and young children with eye disease were also invited to attend.

The full day programme included speakers addressing a range of relevant topics, including singer/songwriter Rachael Leahcar from The Voice who lives with Retinitis Pigmentosa, and Connor McLeod, the young man who successfully lobbied the Reserve Bank of Australia for tactile bank notes.

According to paediatric ophthalmologist and key driver of the initiative, A/Professor John Grigg, “Children and young people with eye disease do best when they are surrounded by informed and connected people. We aim to deliver an interesting and relevant day for young people and those who care for them, and in doing so we have built up a strong community of people who work together to give kids the best start in life.”

The Save Sight Institute information day aims to provide families and teachers with a “one stop shop” for information and tools to enhance a child’s transition through the early years, primary school, high school, university and on to the workforce. The diagnosis of childhood eye disease can set whole families on what is often an unexpected and complicated journey and the day is intended as an annual “check-in” for families and individuals to access new information or support in a timely way.

SSI’s Youth Ambassadors started the day, with 16 year old Sacha Thomas speaking passionately about self-acceptance and the need to embrace all opportunities which come along, while 19 year old Harrison Kirkwood told the audience that “Adversity is something you interact with and dance with. There is no normal.”

Other speakers included Graeme Innes AM who discussed his new book “Finding A Way”, as well as elite paratriathlete Jonathan Goerlach who spoke about his approach to overcoming life’s obstacles.

Professor John Grigg and Professor Robyn Jamieson from SSI provided updates on the new frontiers of medical science and ophthalmology.

The day was also attended by key service providers, including Vision Australia, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, Blind Sports NSW, Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children, Blind Citizens NSW and many more individuals and organisations involved in supporting people with eye disease and impaired vision.

“We are extremely grateful to the QBE Foundation for supporting this important and valuable day for families” said Professor John Grigg. “Without their support we would not be able to deliver something so worthwhile to so many people. The generosity of the QBE Foundation is sincerely appreciated and has already had an extremely positive impact on the lives of many people whose lives are touched by eye disease and vision loss.”

QBE Foundation Australia and New Zealand chairperson Sally Kincaid said: “The QBE Foundation’s aim is to assist the communities we support through helping people overcome disadvantage, strengthen their abilities and live more independently, successfully and productively. We are proud to have helped Save Sight Institute put on this valuable information day to assist families and young people affected by vision loss as they face the challenges and complexities of being diagnosed with eye disease at a young age.”

About the QBE Foundation:

The QBE Foundation is a global initiative to help QBE Insurance give back to the communities in which we operate. Launched in 2011, the Foundation formalises QBE’s long history of community involvement and corporate giving into a structured, global approach. The Foundation’s core philosophy is to ‘Help people overcome disadvantage, strengthen their abilities and live more independently, successfully and productively.’ QBE Australia and New Zealand supports the community through volunteering and also provides philanthropic support.

 

Ocular Oncology Symposium leads the way

On Saturday 13 August the Save Sight Institute Oncology Service, co-convened by Associate Professor Max Conway and Dr Svetlana Cherepanoff, held the second annual Sydney Ocular Oncology Symposium at Sydney Eye Hospital. The Save Sight Institute welcomed internationally recognised speakers from around the world to discuss research and treatment of Ocular Lymphoma, a condition which is increasing in incidence in our community.

On Saturday 13 August the Save Sight Institute Oncology Service, co-convened by Associate Professor Max Conway and Dr Svetlana Cherepanoff, held the second annual Sydney Ocular Oncology Symposium at Sydney Eye Hospital. The Save Sight Institute welcomed internationally recognised speakers from around the world to discuss research and treatment of Ocular Lymphoma, a condition which is increasing in incidence in our community.

Distinguished guests included Professor Stephen Heegaard from the University of Copenhagen and President of the Danish Ophthalmological Academy; Professor Sarah Coupland, Professor of Pathology from University of Liverpool, United Kingdom; and Associate Professor Penny McKelvie from the University of Melbourne. In-depth lectures, lively Q&A sessions and rapid fire case presentations took place at the meeting which had over 60 delegates, including eye specialists and surgeons, pathologists, cancer specialists, students and registrars and optometrists from across the state.

The evening was closed with a Speaker dinner. Special thanks go to Emma Coleman and Ellen Brodie from the Save Sight Institute, Dr Svetlana Cherepanoff (SydPath) and Associate Professors Michele Madigan, Alex Hunyor and Raf Ghabrial,  and Drs Con Petsoglou and Greg Maloney, who were pivotal in making the day a success.

The Ocular Oncology Symposium series continues to grow every year and is now a highly anticipated annual event and an important addition to the ophthalmic education calendar at SSI. It provides a unique opportunity for networking and collaboration with world leaders in research and ophthalmology treatment and we look forward to future events.

Upcoming event of interest: International Congress on Ophthalmic Oncology (ISOOC) which is the international peak meeting held in the field of eye cancer and melanoma. This congress will be held in Sydney in March 2017, is expected to attract over 500 national and international delegates. The Sydney Eye Hospital and Save Sight’s Associate Professor Max Conway, Dr Michael Giblin and Dr Gina Kourt are co-conveners of the Congress.