Once Upon a Time in Cleveland

Once Upon A Time In Cleveland

I am often asked why there is such a lack of awareness related to the financial and social costs associated with uncorrected vision. As always, I think there are several reasons:

– Vision is often taken for granted. Deterioration is gradual as opposed to the immediate impact of something like a headache or back pain.
– The optics industry (manufacturers of lenses, frames and industry professionals like ophthalmologists, optometrists, etc.) are either not aware of, or not communicating, the importance of prevention as it relates to both eye health and cost.
– Advertising communications is focused largely on the eye wear as fashion and not function.
– Finally, for children, the perception is that glasses are ‘uncool’ and sometimes looked down on.

With respect to the final point, I’m reminded of a true story I was told with respect to glasses and its impact on the fight against poverty.

In Cleveland, families struggle to afford even the basic necessities. The poverty rate is a staggering 34.2%, triple the rate of the rest of the country. As such, in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, 100% of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, vision impairment is the most prevalent, disabling condition among children in the United States. Given this school district’s lack of access to health and vision care, the Helen Keller International Children’s Sight program decided to give the children of Cleveland, living in poverty, a second chance at clear vision. They were given basic eye exams and prescribed glasses when necessary.

Teachers were shocked to find an improvement in the classroom. Amazingly, 88% of the children who received glasses from the program reported that their new glasses had instilled self-confidence and helped them with their schoolwork. It’s obvious that glasses are a necessary tool that every child with vision impairment should be afforded.

There is a lot of work to do but it is not impossible. First, let’s try to understand why parents around the world are aware and concerned about the state of their children’s teeth but not as much about their vision. Let’s try to understand why 80% of American consumers think that the sun is harmful to the skin but only 10% are aware of the consequences it has on vision.

The only way we can generate awareness about vision health is with the mobilization of the leaders within the optics industry. We need to create a community to promote awareness and education on the importance and impact of corrected vision. And, don’t forget, an important result of worldwide vision health awareness and correction is a reduction in unnecessary spending and health costs, promotion of economic growth and an increase in quality of life. This is the goal of the Vision Impact Institute. Our  mission is to raise awareness about the socio-economic impact of vision impairment due to Uncorrected Refractive Error and about the benefits of visual correction.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Please leave your message in the comments section below.

Jean-Felix Biosse Duplan

President of the Vision Impact Institute