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Year : 2012  |  Volume : 60  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 358-364

The economic burden of blindness in Pakistan: A socio-economic and policy imperative for poverty reduction strategies

1 Avicenna Consulting Pvt Ltd, Islamabad, Pakistan
2 Centre for Research on Economic and Social Transformation (CREST), Islamabad, Pakistan

Correspondence Address:
Haroon Awan
CEO, Avicenna Consulting Private Limited, 18-B Kaghan Road, F-8/4, Islamabad 44000
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0301-4738.100527

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State and nonstate health programs in developing countries are often influenced by priorities that are defined in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In the wake of recessionary pressures, policy makers in the health sector are often seen to divert significant budgets to some specific health programs and make only token allocations for other health problems that are important but do not fall under the traditional MDG box of health priorities. This paper illustrates the economic argument for investment in one such program: The eye health program and employs a country case study of Pakistan to demonstrate that there are significant economic gains that are being foregone by not addressing the needs of the blind in poverty reduction strategies. By applying appropriate growth and discounting factors and using the average wage rate, the paper estimates the total productivity gains that are realizable over a period of 10 years if the blind population in Pakistan is rehabilitated and their carers released to participate in the mainstream economic activity. Our findings indicate that significant productivity gains accumulated over 10 years, range from Rs. 61 billion (US$ 709 million) to Rs. 421 billion (US$ 4.9 billion) depending upon whether the entire blind population or only those affected by a specific cause are rehabilitated. The per annum productivity gains of rehabilitating the entire blind population represents 0.74% of the current gross domestic product of Pakistan, which is higher than the total public spending on health. In order to reap these benefits, the subsequent absorption of the rehabilitated blind and their carers into mainstream economic activity is as important as their effective rehabilitation.

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