World Sight Day 2022: Expanding access to eye care and healthy vision starts locally

ByMartha R. Camara

Nov 14, 2022

Like a fingerprint, each person’s eyes are unique. And throughout our lives, our eyes go on their own unique journey: whether a child needs their first pair of corrective glasses or an elderly person is cured of their once debilitating cataract. Very young, I was prescribed glasses. Initially, wearing them was a bit uncomfortable. Once I got used to it, it was like I could make out the colors on the leaves of the tree. The quality of my life has improved in all aspects. Performing various activities was easier than without glasses and I enjoyed my hobbies much more. I think this experience is similar to anyone who wears prescription glasses.

The conducting wire ? This precious gift of sight is something that should never be taken for granted. Healthy eyes and vision are an important channel through which we experience and contribute to the world around us. And they are also an important part of our overall health. Visual impairment impacts people’s well-being and lifestyle, as well as their ability to support their families and care for themselves. Globally, visual impairment and blindness cause an estimated $410.7 billion in lost productivity, and the overall monthly earnings and employment rates of visually impaired people tend to be lower.

The hard truth is this: our eyes aren’t always the priority when it comes to our health. And not everyone has access to the resources and treatments they need to keep their eyes healthy throughout life. Globally, more than 1.1 billion people live with uncorrected visual impairment, but 90% of vision loss worldwide is also treatable or preventable. It reveals a clear directive: we must expand access to eye care and healthy vision across the lifespan by supporting increased access in every corner of the world – and it starts locally.

World Sight Day – and the theme #LoveYourEyes – provides an important opportunity for people to prioritize their eye health and that of their communities. Because loving our eyes means helping to ensure that the precious gift of sight and healthy vision is accessible to everyone.

Global eye care challenges require community-driven solutions

Ensuring local access to eye care is extremely important, especially considering how untreated visual impairment due to lack of awareness can have economic implications for individuals and their families as well as society more broadly. In India, single members are quite frequently found in the family. When the only living member loses their sight to cataracts, it impacts the daily lives of those who depend on them. Most of the time, it is the lack of awareness that is causing the increase in cataract cases.

What else? 90% of people with visual impairments are people who live in low- and middle-income countries. Visual impairment has also been shown to have a higher prevalence among people living in remote areas, women, older people, people with other disabilities, and ethnic minorities. This is compounded by the fact that age-related eye conditions, such as cataracts or macular degeneration, will only increase as the world’s population ages.

Solutions to these global challenges must start locally, and we must deeply understand and address the nuances of eye care delivery in every community. To help, Alcon provides monetary, product and equipment donations and expertise to eligible nonprofit partners to help ensure the continuity of eye care in local communities. Through the Alcon Foundation and Alcon Cares, donations totaled more than $15 million in 2021, and we’ve used that money to support organizations like the International Eye Foundation, which strengthen eye systems in India through its Hospital Recovery program, and VisionSpring, which is providing affordable, quality eyewear to people around the world.

But we don’t stop there. In 2021, we supported 73 medical missions, performed more than 11,000 surgeries and treated more than 40,000 patients. This is one of more than 750 medical missions we have completed over the past three years, helping to deliver eye care to the places that need it most.

Partnership paves the way for increased access to all corners of the world

Our commitment to local results has culminated in a bold commitment: By 2025, Alcon will work with partners through philanthropic support and training programs to help improve the sight of 5 million people with untreated cataracts in low- and middle-income countries. countries, including 1 million considered cataract-blind.

But we know that no single organization can solve global eye care challenges alone. Partnership is the cornerstone to having real impact, for real people.

Together with our partners, we are expanding access to eye care globally to meet unmet needs where they exist. A priority is to strengthen the skills of eye care teams in areas where the needs are greatest. For example, through our partnership with Orbis International’s Flying Eye Hospital, we have helped train more than 680 Eye Care Professionals (ECPs) who have performed 3.6 million eye screenings and exams and 38,000 surgeries in 2021. In India, we have set up an eye screening center camp in Bangalore, in two orphanages. Here, over 100 students were screened and checked for any eye ailments. It was identified that many students had symptoms of myopia. The students then received corrective lenses to help them see well. Over the years of eye screening for school children, we believe it is one of the most effective ways to provide quality eye care to those who need it.

Continued Access to Eye Care Through ECP Training

Every community is different. However, wherever you are, building local eye care capacity through training helps ensure sustainable access to eye care.

We offer world-class ECP training at our Alcon Experience Centers, with 10 locations around the world. This training helps improve eye care systems, increasing overall capacity for eye-related procedures, including phacoemulsification (phaco) surgeries, the standard of care for cataract surgery.

For example, through the Alcon Phaco Development (PD) program, we have enabled more surgeons to provide sustainable access to phaco procedures. Since the program’s launch in 2008, more than 5,000 surgeons worldwide have been trained and have performed more than 7 million sight-improving or phaco-restoring procedures for patients.

In 2021, as part of Alcon’s Project 100, we donated 34 phaco devices and trained 126 doctors and surgeons in this key cataract removal procedure in India alone.

Alcon’s goal is to help people see brilliantly, no matter who they are or where they live. On this World Sight Day, we encourage everyone to remember the precious gift of sight. Take ownership of your eyes and help others in your community do the same by making sure you and your loved ones get regular eye exams. In most cases, the cataract can be removed with a procedure that takes less than 30 minutes. After the operation, one can go home and resume a normal life, with almost no addiction to glasses. So don’t just ignore your vision problems, get them rectified right away. Consult your nearest surgeon for the best option.

[Amar Vyas, is the Country Franchise Head, of the Surgical division at Alcon India. He has been associated with Alcon for 21 years. Amar is an experienced National Sales Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the medical device industry. Additionally, he is skilled in Sales, Medical Devices, Sales Operations, Sales Management, and Cross-functional Team Leadership.]

-Amar Vyas