The National Eye Institute (NEI) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is responsible for funding sight-saving and sight-restoring vision research. The annual cost for vision disorders/blindness in the United States is $145 billion. Direct medical costs associated with vision disorders are the fifth highest-only less than heart disease, cancers, emotional disorders, and pulmonary conditions. Adequately funding vision research is vital due to the following:
- NEI’s FY2016 funding of $708 million is still less than 0.5 percent of the $145 billion annual cost of vision disorders. The U.S. is only spending $2.20 per-person, per-year for vision research, while the cost of treating low vision and blindness is $6,680 per-person, per-year
- Vision loss can be a co-morbid condition of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, which is at epidemic levels due to the increased incidence of obesity.
- In public opinion polls over the past fifty years, including a 2014 poll reflecting all four major racial/ethnic groups in the U.S., Americans have identified fear of vision loss as second only to fear of cancer-and for which they would trade remaining years of life to avoid.