Vision Ambassador program takes first steps in rural China - Essilor See Change

Essilor’s inclusive business arm has formed a new partnership with a local hospital to train Vision Ambassadors in Yunnan Province, South West China. Like the Eye Mitra Program in India, the program brings affordable eye-care services to rural areas that would otherwise have little access to them.

The program, which Essilor’s 2.5 New Vision Generation initiative (2.5 NVG) runs in partnership with the Bright Eye Hospital in Yunnan capital Kunming, will create a network of locally trained eye-care providers who are able to carry out screenings, prescribe near addition needs and sell reading glasses and sunglasses to around 30,000 people living in mountainous areas in Yunnan province. Once trained, VAs will sell 2.5 NVG products made available through the hospital’s mobile refraction vans. Ms. Zhulili [pictured] is one of the first Vision Ambassadors in the area to become qualified. Last week she set up a stall in the market place of Dianyuan Township, 30 km from Kunming, where she is able to reach the local community. A significant proportion of the people she serves is elderly, and she says she was able to sell 21 pairs of NVG glasses to this sector in just one day.

In Yunnan province alone, 50% of the 48 million strong population live in rural areas with no eye care infrastructure.

This is the second training partnership NVG China has initiated in less than three months. It forms part of a wider program in operation since October, aimed at developing access to vision care in the rural provinces of Yunnan, Inner Mongolia and Guangdong. The wider ‘Health Ambassador’ project is being rolled out in partnership with local NGO Xintu who the NVG China team have a history of working with in other areas of China. Along with other basic health checks, the Health Ambassadors provide visual acuity screening to rural populations, and refer those who require a full refraction to the hospital’s mobile clinics or to local optical stores.  Those who require eyeglasses are catered for by 2.5 NVG products at a fraction of the price of conventional lenses.

While the idea of the program is straight-forward, the main challenge in these provinces – which have a combined population of 178 million – is to transfer knowledge. In Yunnan province alone, 50% of the 48 million strong population live in rural areas with no eye care infrastructure. Empowering local health workers to promote visual health by partnering with local hospitals is a good first step towards dealing with this.