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The Visual Divide: Poor vision could escalate to more than 50% of the world’s population

7 October 2016

A new report indicates that by providing glasses to more than 2.5 billion of the world’s population could generate huge returns in terms of improving levels of education and economic growth.

The Eyeglasses for Global Development: Bridging the Visual Divide report outlines how correcting people’s vision by providing glasses could boost socioeconomic development.This is especially relevant to the case of children, where instances of vision correction have been proven to lead to better test scores and improved academic performance in primary school.

In the case of adults “correcting vision represents a more immediate economic return by “supporting increased productivity of the working poor”. It also allows them to remain in the workforce for a longer period of time, giving them a greater chance at overcoming illiteracy”.

The solution lies in collaboration
The report was jointly published by the World Economic Forum and EYElliance, a multi-stakeholder venture established with the aim of bringing together governments, philanthropists, businesses and the eye-care community with a specific mandate to collaboratively close the gap in access to eyeglasses.

Major international lens manufacturer Essior is also involved in the EYElliance venture. Essilor has reported that of the 4.5 billion people who require vision correction, only 1.9 billion actually correct their eyesight, leaving more than 2.5 billion of the world’s population with uncorrected poor vision. This has both devastating personal, social and economic consequences. Furthermore, 95% of these people live in developing countries where the lack awareness of the impacts of poor vision and access to basic solutions.

The report predicted that as high as AUD$295.8 billion in annual growth could be unlocked by providing glasses to the 2.5 billion in the world who don’t have glasses but need them

It has also been predicted that without immediate action, the negative economic, educational and societal impacts of poor vision could increase, with more than 50% of the world’s population expected to suffer from myopia by 2050.

Current Barriers
The report identified several barriers to improving the global distribution of glasses to those who desperately need them, including:

  • Supply: challenges presented by regulation, a lack of investment and healthcare professionals
  • Demand: there is a lack of awareness about vision problems, misperceptions and culturally-based stigmas as well as limited affordable eye-care solutions contribute to this.

Lead signatory of the report and former US Secretary of State, commented “The need is great, but the problem is solvable…This report shows how we can harness market forces to address a major global health problem and foster significant gains in socioeconomic development”.

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