ATscale, the global partnership for Assistive Technology, was launched in 2018 with the ambitious goal of catalyzing action to reach 500 million more people with life-changing assistive technology (AT) by 2030. In the report, eyeglasses were championed as one of the most transformative inventions, positively impacting the lives of billions of people around the word.
Globally, 1 in 3 people suffer from uncorrected poor vision and 90% of these cases live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). At least 2.7 billion people suffer from vision impairment due to uncorrected refractive errors and can benefit from eyeglasses, yet demand for eyeglasses in LMICs remains low due to a lack of access and awareness around vision impairment and a stigma that remains around the wearing of eyeglasses.
The ATscale report for eyeglasses which Essilor contributed insights to, highlights an urgent imperative to increase access to eyeglasses particularly in LMICs where there is little or no access to affordable vision care. This is further reinforced in our ‘Eliminating Poor Vision in a Generation’ report which calls for an investment of $14 billion over the next 30 years to create sustainable access points for eye health services, innovate affordable solutions, fund subsidized and free services as well as raising awareness to create a world free from uncorrected poor vision.
Why is this important?
If left unaddressed, over 50% of the world’s population is expected to suffer from myopia by 2050, many with serious vision-threatening side effects and drastic long-term implications. Moreover, uncorrected poor vision costs the world over USD270 billion in productivity loss annually and has a negative impact on the health, education, quality of life, and general wellbeing of affected individuals.
Improving access and eliminating the burden of uncorrected poor vision in LMICs will require a multisectoral approach that brings together the public and the private sector, multilateral organizations, and donors to increase demand for eyeglasses, raise the number of access points for screening and provision, and accelerate the availability of affordable vision care products. To accomplish this, ATscale proposes five strategic objectives that can help to strengthen the eye health market in LMICs in the short and long term:
- Strategy 1: Mobilize key stakeholders, including donors, multilaterals, NGO implementers, and the private sector, around reliable data and proven scalable models to accelerate efforts against vision impairment caused by refractive errors.
- Strategy 2: Strengthen global policy guidance around service delivery standards for low-resource settings to accelerate the adoption of innovative models, devices, and products that support a simplified service delivery.
- Strategy 3: Support governments to develop comprehensive eye care plans integrating validated models of vision screening and provision within the public health system, and facilitate scale-up of those models.
- Strategy 4: Engage the private sector to expand delivery of affordable, quality eyeglasses and related services in LMICs.
- Strategy 5: Build and drive awareness and consumer demand for eyeglasses.
This article is the first of a six-part series and in subsequent articles, we will examine how each strategy can be executed to bring glasses to everyone, everywhere and eliminate uncorrected poor vision in a generation.