India: Watching Advocacy Create Action
Earlier this year, we announced that Shailaja Pathania was joining our team as the Principal Consultant for Advocacy in India. We are pleased to share the Vision Impact Institute’s (VII) efforts in India are already generating a response – both in awareness and action for the future.
In India, a country with nearly 550 million people with vision problems, the VII knows significant awareness and education is needed to shed light on the problem of uncorrected refractive error (URE), especially among children and drivers. To draw attention to these issues, Shailaja presented at a press conference in July and used VII resources to educate media on how 41 percent of children in India have URE that could impact their studies and quality of life.
A recent study shows there are psychosocial barriers to children in India using glasses, but these misconceptions can be significantly changed through health education on the life-long impacts of URE. The VII is using this information to advocate for educating teachers about vision problems and ultimately asking the Indian government to incorporate a basic vision pre-screening self-learning training module for them so they can help identify children with potential vision issues. While a comprehensive eye exam is the best way to detect and correct vision impairments, screenings are a great first step to identifying any issues.
The VII has also taken a deeper focus of the visual issues facing Indian adults, including sharing reports that more than 80 percent of drivers in India involved in a car accident have at least one visual disability. Driving is a visual-based activity, and as we are in many other countries, the VII is urging the Indian government to include vision testing as a pre-cursor to obtaining a driver’s license in India. The VII has drafted recommendations that can serve as a guideline to states in India to ensure driver’s license applicants use the necessary vision correction while driving, and the country’s Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship asked to discuss programs that can be enacted in support of VII’s efforts.
These are the types of advancements that VII is working to create around the world. We are encouraged by the results so far in India, as they demonstrate how important advocacy and education can be in stimulating change. Now is the time to capitalize on this momentum and push for further action to combat URE – both in India and around the world. Our website is full of resources that showcase the impending challenges facing the global community if URE is not addressed – as well as studies outlining the solutions available to us if governments, NGOs and the optical industry can come together on this. Join us in sharing these resources, advocating for action and Giving Vision a Voice.