We are proud to announce that Essilor is co-signatory of “Eyeglasses for Global Development: Bridging the Visual Divide”: a jointly authored report that stresses the urgent need for a global alliance between donors, multilateral institutions, multinational corporations, and leading eye health NGOs dedicated to increase access to eyeglasses for the 2.5 bn people who can’t see properly.
For the 2.5 billion individuals living with poor vision, Essilor has made it our mission to improve their lives by improving their sight. But it’s a huge global challenge, and we can’t do it alone. Multi-stakeholder action is needed. As member of EYElliance: a coalition of multi-sector public, private and non-governmental organization (NGO) partners seeking to work together to address the world’s unmet need for eyeglasses, we highlighted the importance of public-private cooperation in the report released at last week’s World Economic Forum meeting in China.
Good vision is fundamental for enabling individuals to fully participate in educational and economic opportunities, as well as for personal independence and well-being. Improving people’s access to eyeglasses positively impacts educational outcomes, increases productivity and, thus contributes to local and national economies. Clear vision is important for developed countries but critical for the economic progress of developing countries. However many of these suffer from significantly higher numbers of people with uncorrected vision, especially in rural areas, due to lack of awareness, financial inaccessibility or a drastic shortage of eye care institutions and professionals.
The report supported by the World Economic Forum and The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, summarizes the impact of poor vision on adults and children based on research and long-term studies. Without glasses, children with poor vision are at a major disadvantage in school because 80% of all learning occurs through vision. Healthy vision therefore needs to become part of every effective education system and screenings should be considered as a cost-effective intervention to support learning outcomes.
In the case of adults, it has been proven that correcting near vision loss with glasses can raise productivity of up to 34%. The report points to over $225 billion in annual global growth that could be unlocked by providing eyeglasses to the 2.5 billion people with uncorrected vision.* If current trends continue an estimated 4.8 billion people, or about half the world’s population, will have myopia by 2050. It is therefore no surprise that all the stakeholders agree on the need of an urgent intervention and further investment: in 2015, only $37 million, or 2 cents per person affected, was spent to solve this problem.*
In addition to the financial inaccessibility, the report also discusses other barriers that need to be overcome to ensure that everyone can benefit from the advantages of healthy vision. There is the shortage of eye care professionals, particularly in developing countries, as we have shown in many of our previous articles. Also the regulatory challenges that need to be faced and that vary depending on the legal framework of a country. A fundamental problem is lack of awareness: many people simply don’t know that they can’t see properly and they never had the opportunity in their lives to do an eye test.
A milestone in providing quality vision to everyone, everywhere
The report provides recommendations for government bodies, financial institutions, the global eye care community and research institutions that need to be discussed, developed and implemented cooperatively. Beyond the need for affordable eye care products, appropriate distribution models have to be created. Essilor is happy that we have been able to share our expertise in this field with our proven and pioneering business model – Eye Mitra – launched and developed by Essilor’s inclusive business arm 2.5 New Vision Generation. All the partners agree that new developments in technology can also accelerate the ability to reach consumers at a significantly lower cost and on a larger scale. In this area, just last week Essilor launched an open innovation initiative – the See Change Challenge – to seek new refractive solutions that can speed up delivery of vision care in underserved regions.
There is unanimity among all stakeholder when it comes to the need for further investments to prevent this massive global health problem from becoming greater, and the advantages of a collaborating across industries. Joining forces is for us another step towards fulfilling our mission. We have shown our commitment to join partnerships in particular as co-founders of Our Children’s Vision – a first-of-its kind cross-industry alliance to launch a global campaign on the importance of healthy vision for children. We know that we have to actively engage with other parties if we want to make a difference. EYElliance will support this existing effort and may prove a milestone in the universal acceptance of the fundamental need to provide quality vision for everyone, everywhere.
*All the figures are taken from the report “Eyeglasses for Global Development: Bridging the Visual Divide” except those linked to other studies and/or articles.