News and notices. Comm Eye Health Vol. 16 No. 48 2003. December 01, 2003

Why do women carry the greater burden of blindness, and what can be done?

The first international conference on women and blindness addresses the problem

“Improving Women’s Eye Health: Strategies to Address the Greater Burden of Blindness Among Women” was the title given to a conference in Boston in November 2003. Public health policy makers, health care providers, scientists, organisations for the blind, and vision experts from around the world gathered to explore why women are nearly twice as likely to lose their vision as men and how to stem the tide of blinding diseases in women.

Blind women await attention. © Sue Stevens
Blind women await attention. © Sue Stevens

The extent of the problem of blindness in women became clear with the publishing of a meta analysis of more than 70 epidemiological studies on blindness conducted over the past 20 years, which showed that women accounted for most of the world’s blind.1 In addition, World Health Organization (WHO) statistics indicate that two-thirds of people suffering from visual impairment are women. Scientists theorise that longevity, smoking, nutrition, and environmental factors may be causing increased eye disease in women in developed nations, while poverty, infectious disease, and lack of access to health services are contributing to the statistics in developing countries.

The conference was sponsored by the Women’s Eye Health Task Force, an organisation based at Harvard’s Schepens Eye Research Institute. Web site:

1 Abou-Gareeb I, Lewallen S, Bassett K, Courtright P. Gender and blindness: a meta-analysis of population-based prevalence surveys. Ophthalmic Epidemiol 2001; 8(1): 39-56.

News and notices in Comm Eye Health Vol. 16 No. 48 2003 –