Indigenous Eye Health in the Americas: The Burden of Vision Impairment and Ocular Diseases
Vision impairment and blindness, along with ocular diseases, are a significant concern among Indigenous Peoples of the Americas. This review systematically assessed the frequency of these conditions in Indigenous groups by analyzing 32 selected studies. The highest frequencies of vision impairment and blindness in adults over 40 years old ranged from 11.1% in high-income North America to 28.5% in tropical Latin America, indicating higher rates compared to the general population. Most ocular diseases reported were preventable or treatable, emphasizing the need for targeted blindness prevention programs focusing on accessibility to eye examinations, cataract surgeries, infectious disease control, and spectacles distribution. However, the burden of vision impairment and blindness in Indigenous Peoples may be underestimated due to the exclusion of their data from most global estimates. Including these populations in research is challenging due to low numbers and responses, despite their higher risk for ocular diseases and vision loss. Addressing the eye health disparities faced by Indigenous communities requires tailored interventions, emphasizing access to eye services, integration with primary care, telemedicine, customized propaedeutics, eye health education, and quality data collection. With Indigenous Peoples being one of the most disadvantaged and marginalized populations, improving the quality and quantity of eye health research is essential to develop effective public health policies and services for their specific needs.