Simply put refractive error (RE) occurs when the eye cannot focus clearly, resulting in blurred vision. Left uncorrected, it can impact an individual’s ability to learn, work, play, and realize their full potential.
However, the economic benefits and outcomes of correcting vision impairment are still not well understood by both public and private stakeholders. Historically there has been a lack of consistent data to inform policymakers on the burden of uncorrected refractive errors (URE) and the impact of eyeglasses.
Understanding the growing urgency to address URE, the 2020 ATscale report on the eyeglasses market landscape outlined five strategic approaches towards increasing access to eyeglasses in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
Essilor’s ‘Eliminating Poor Vision in a Generation’ report similarly advocated for accelerating actions through coalitions and better data, emphasizing the need to rally resources and key stakeholders behind an agreed set of common goals to successfully eliminate URE by 2050.
This article discusses Strategy 1 in the ATscale Report: To 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 RE.
The proposed approaches of Strategy 1 are as follows:
Standardizing data collection, creating open databases
Both reports highlighted the need to create new standardized forms of data collection methodologies to account for the magnitude of RE and URE, as well as the quality and capacity of eye care across countries, with an emphasis on integrating indicators into national health management information systems. More detailed and open databases with relevant demographic breakdowns are also needed to understand and track progress against the URE burden over the next 30 years.
Setting a benchmark measure for success
There is a clear role for multilateral organizations to establish the benchmark for what it means to be “poor vision free” and how to measure it. Essilor’s ‘Eliminating Poor Vision in a Generation’ report suggests a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) that can be applied to countries globally, to measure and determine if and when a region can be declared ‘poor vision free’:
“The lack of global awareness and consistent data on the prevalence and impact of uncorrected refractive errors is hampering global progress towards better eye heath. By standardizing data collection across countries, engaging directly with national governments, and developing cross-sector collaborations to utilize proven delivery approaches, we can ensure a more coordinated effort to addressing uncorrected refractive errors – one that is better informed by data, uses resources more efficiently, and achieves better outcomes,” said Alison End Fineberg, Director, ATscale
Coalitions allow for the establishment of a supporting structure that is data-driven, allowing the coalition to focus on a shared strategy based on proven delivery platforms, and to track and report on progress to all stakeholders.
A great example of a data-driven coalition in action is the EYElliance, a multi-sector coalition that drives the global strategy to increase access to eyeglasses at scale. EYElliance identifies highly effective, proven models and integrates those solutions into broader, pre-existing public and private systems to increase access to glasses at scale, so that those in less developed countries can fully avail themselves of vital educational and economic opportunities.
Co-ordinated efforts informed by better data ensures a more effective use of available resources and can achieve better outcomes towards eliminating URE globally by 2050.
In the next article of this series, we will take a closer look at the affordability for vision care services and products.