The challenge to improving vision is often one of education and perception. Essilor Vision Foundation set out to raise awareness and promote healthy vision at the 4th China Charity Fair.

Held in Shenzhen, China’s fifth biggest city, the 4th edition of the China Charity fair attracted up to 10,000 visitors per day. An ideal opportunity to explore the breadth of activities of some 900 non-profit organizations and foundations working in China’s philanthropic sector including Essilor Vision Foundation (EVF), in partnership with the SSCL Foundation.  This year EVF launched a vision care project ‘Eye Do’ in three Chinese cities to help improve the vision of over 13,000 disadvantaged children, including many from rural areas and low-income families.

There is a common view in China that poor vision is a handicap, and that wearing a pair of glasses is a social stigma or may even weaken your eyes.

An interactive vision screening activity at the Essilor Vision Foundation booth attracted a lot of attention, but surprisingly low levels of active participation. “I’m scared of taking the eye exam because I know that I have poor sight,” one visitor was prompted to say. This reaction highlights a common view in China that poor vision is a handicap, and that wearing a pair of glasses is a social stigma or may even weaken your eyes.

During 2012-2013 Essilor supported a two-year REAP project funded by Stanford University to measure the impact of eye care and glasses on the educational performance of primary age children in rural China. The screening of almost 20,000 students across two provinces found that one in four students had myopia. If not corrected, this vision difficulty worsens over time and the incidence of myopia in older students is typically much higher. More worrying was what the research revealed about the misconceptions of professionals, parents and pupils alike:

  • Of those who had been prescribed glasses, 55% do not wear them.
  • 20% of rural doctors believe nearsighted students should not wear glasses and 90% believe eye exercises are effective in correcting myopia
  • More than a 1/3 of principals, parents and students believe “wearing glasses makes nearsightedness worse”

Educating students, parents and teachers about healthy vision is an important step in changing the mindset of people in China regarding vision correction

Essilor Vision Foundation’s projects in China focus on raising awareness of the benefits of vision correction – to improve learning, working and daily quality of life. The Eye Do projects underway in the Shanghai area, for example, offer teachers training on basic vision health education. Educating students, parents and teachers about healthy vision is an important step in changing the mindset of people in China regarding vision correction and helping ensure better life chances for a generation of young people destined to be the country’s future labor force.

The SSCL Foundation-Essilor Fund was established by Essilor and Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation in September 2014. It is dedicated to eliminating poor vision and its lifelong consequences and to providing underprivileged people with the opportunity to live a better life through better sight.