China’s Optical Industry May Be Blurring Country’s Economic Future

China population 610 million vision defects

There is a Chinese proverb which says, “A mouse’s vision is an inch long.” It means the person who focuses on short-term benefits may jeopardize long-term interests. According to research due out later this year, China – not only the most populous nation on Earth, but also home to the largest number of people with vision disorders – may be in exactly that situation.

The study, from the China Center for Health Development at Peking University, indicates that between 610 and 650 million Chinese have presbyopia (the diminishing ability of the eye to focus on up-close items) or myopia (nearsightedness) – and with such a large percentage of the workforce having uncorrected vision impairments, it certainly cannot function at its best.

Dr. Ling Li, author of the study, expressed concern that the country’s optical industry is actually contributing to the blurry future of the country. Economic factors, like a highly fragmented and ultra-competitive market combined with high retail distribution costs, create substantial incentive for Chinese consumers to shop based on price rather than quality of vision correction products. But even more significant, vision care is not emphasized as a priority in overall healthcare in China. While the European Union and the United States both have regulations that ensure defined levels of training and education for optometrists, there is an overall lack of opportunities for Chinese optometrists to receive more professional training. Many have vocational – rather than medical – training and cannot offer prescriptive corrections or diagnose vision disorders.

But this problem does not only exist in the populous urban centers in China – a 2014 study of vision in rural China found that the ratio of eye doctors in the government health system to the population was insufficient for adequate care. This was only highlighted by the fact that 54 percent of respondents with vision problems who had eyeglasses indicated they did not receive a vision exam prior to receiving the glasses.

I’m excited that my colleague Kristan Gross, Director of Global Content & Communications, will be participating in a press conference in Beijing on June 5 to announce the results of the China Center for Health Development at Peking University study.

It is our sincerest hope at the Vision Impact Institute that this study will benefit China’s dedicated leaders in their effort to emphasize the importance of continuing to develop the professional standards of the country’s optical industry – and that together we can continue Giving Vision a Voice.

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