By Pelin Munis, Ph.D., CEO, RestoringVision
A remarkable momentum is building around global collaboration to solve the global vision crisis. Over the past few months, I have experienced this myself during the World Health Organization’s Global Refractive Error Expert Consultation meeting in Geneva and again as we joined together shortly after at the IAPB IN SIGHT LIVE conference in Singapore.
RestoringVision is particularly energized by the fact that refractive error is now being recognized as a global health priority. Eye health is essential to people worldwide and too many still lack the ability to access or afford the vision services and eyeglasses they need to see clearly.
One of the most hopeful facts about this global vision crisis is that while over 1 billion people globally have a vision impairment that could have been prevented or is yet to be addressed – 81% of this issue area is solvable with reading glasses as presbyopia is a major aspect of this crisis. This is particularly encouraging because we already have a cost-effective solution – reading glasses – and delivery models that can scale.
While solving this global vision crisis will take several approaches, solving for presbyopia, in which 826 million people worldwide are unable to access or afford the reading glasses they need to see clearly, would mark a significant milestone in the global eye health sector’s work together. Imagine the wave of momentum that would come from solving this part of the issue alone – and that is RestoringVision’s mission; it’s at the core of what we do every day. We must continue to come together as global eye health advocates to address this crisis – because we know the solution is in sight.
The prioritization of solving presbyopia for people living in extreme poverty has many compelling points, including the fact that it is cost-efficient. We don’t need to invent a new product, medical equipment and professionals are not required for the widespread distribution of these eyeglasses, and reading glasses are a gateway to more comprehensive eye health services. We have seen this in our work at RestoringVision where our local partners implement a reading glasses program and with more interest and resources go on to build more comprehensive eye care programs. For these reasons we are excited to be at the forefront of spearheading the work needed to reach the 826 million people worldwide who still only need reading glasses to go back to work and earn a living, to continue their education, to care for their families, and to realize their potential. This approach will also allow our sector to achieve the most success within a swift timeframe while solving a significant portion of the global vision crisis and simultaneously seeding new markets and generating demand.
And while we think of our ability to solve this global problem, we must remain focused on the individuals who will experience transformed lives as a result of clear vision. Luis, 48, is a Guatemalan man who was recently diagnosed with diabetes and had his leg amputated due to the devastating toll that the disease had on his body. His vision had also deteriorated.
“Since being diagnosed with diabetes, my leg had to be amputated and my vision has significantly worsened,” said Luis. “To see clearly again was to see the light, especially because I take refuge in reading and writing.”
“I can tell you that with the reading glasses that we were able to provide to Luis, his outlook on life has changed,” our local partner states. “He now has hope for a better future, in spite of the recent events in his life.”
Millions of people like Luis are waiting for their opportunity to see clearly again through the transformative power of eyeglasses. When we solve presbyopia, people are empowered in so many ways – through increased productivity, returning to work, earning an income after being unable to due to blurry vision.
There are many experts thinking through many different aspects of eye health and how people worldwide can gain access to the ongoing care that they need. RestoringVision’s role as the leader in solving presbyopia – and tackling 81% of the vision crisis – is a big feat, and we are excited to join together with dedicated partners like you to accomplish this goal and to impact millions of people like Luis with restored vision.