Trachoma leaves millions blind, costs $2.9 billon to global economy

March 19, 2003

Researchers for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the International Trachoma Initiative have calculated the human toll and economic burden of trachoma, a chronic infection that causes blindness. They estimate that there are 3.8 million cases of blindness and 5.3 million cases of low vision in countries known or suspected to have trachoma. In addition, they estimate $2.9 billion in lost productivity to low vision or blinding trachoma. The results appear in the article "Estimating the burden of trachomatous visual loss" in the April 2003 issue of Ophthalmic Epidemiology.

Kevin D. Frick, PhD, lead author of the study and associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management in the School, said, "Policy makers are interested in a variety of measures of the impact of this disease. Our article presents an updated, conservative estimate of the disability adjusted life years attributable to trachomatous visual loss and presents the first dollar estimate--$2.9 billion per year. While this global total is small in comparison with the United States' economy, this amount is greater than the GDP of some of the nations in which the disease is still present. In addition, this figure does not include the loss due to the pain and light sensitivity associated with complications of trachoma that precede visual loss."

Worldwide attention to trachoma has suggested that it is a substantial global burden. Although calculations differ, all reports have found the number of people blinded from trachoma to be in the millions. The School researchers incorporated prior data, newly available data,and a list of countries that have been identified as having known or suspecting blinding trachoma since the last estimate of the global burden.

To estimate the prevalence and number of cases of trachomatous blindness and low vision, the researchers followed a previously used method of combining epidemiological data from multiple studies. As a reference point, the researchers defined blindness as corrected visual acuity in the better eye to be less than 3/60 and low vision as corrected visual acuity in the better eye to be less than 6/18, but better than or equal to 3/60. Visual acuity of 20/20 is considered normal. Visual loss was the combined categories of blindness and low vision. The researchers compared the burden of the disease with the expected costs of eradicating trachomatous blindness, to identify the dollar estimate for loss caused by this disease.

The researchers noted a lack of available high quality, published epidemiological data on trachomatous blindness and low vision as a barrier to future research. Dr. Frick said, "Future research should include a measure of the loss associated with all disability related to trachoma rather than focusing only on visual loss."
-end-
M. Arantxa Colchero, MS, a research assistant in the School of Public Health's Department of Health Policy and Management, and Christy L. Hanson, a graduate student in the Department of International Health, co-authored the study. Eva V. Basilion, MS, with the International Trachoma Initiative in New York, NY, was also a co-author.

Research was supported by grants from the International Trachoma Initiative.

Link to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health at www.jhsph.edu.

Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

Related Public Health Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 and the decolonization of Indigenous public health
Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have helped protect Indigenous communities in Canada during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and these principles should be incorporated into public health in future, argue the authors of a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.200852.

Public health consequences of policing homelessness
In a new study examining homelessness, researchers find that policy such a lifestyle has massive public health implications, making sleeping on the street even MORE unhealthy.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic likely to cause long-term health problems, Yale School of Public Health finds
The coronavirus pandemic's life-altering effects are likely to result in lasting physical and mental health consequences for many people--particularly those from vulnerable populations--a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.

BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.

Read More: Public Health News and Public Health Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.