The Vision Impact Institute in China

Not a day goes by that you don’t hear about China. The massive population, the tradition of dynamism, the pace at which it is developing – all of these combine to make for a fascinating portrait of a nation. China’s products, citizens, and influences can be found everywhere.
A country that seemingly creates it all, China is not without its challenges. From an optical perspective, there is a new storm sweeping up the citizenry of this densely populated land – myopia. In fact, 80% of China’s students suffer from the impairment (1).

And the number is only growing. While 60% of Europeans have access to proper eye care, only 20% of Chinese citizens are afforded the same “privilege ” (2). The reasons for the disparity are myriad.  Be it from a lack of access or awareness, an  influx of poverty, or some other cause, the Chinese are suffering.

When I saw these numbers, startling as they are, I knew that the Vision Impact Institute had to help.

There are several ways to address the impact of vision impairment in Asia’s largest country. The VII began by partnering with the Michelin Bibendum Challenge. This huge event, held in Chengdu, serves to promote sustainable mobility and safety. Our hope was to spread awareness about road safety in a country with 150 million drivers. Vision is a crucial component here. The first thing drivers need to be safer on the road is healthy eyesight.

That is why the Vision Impact Institute proposed an overhaul of the eye exams Chinese citizens must undergo in order to be cleared for a license to drive, while also having regular checks every five years. This would be an inexpensive solution that would yield results almost instantly. Our suggestion came as a pleasant surprise to the panel, and generated quite a bit of interest.

During my meetings with the Chinese media, I was overwhelmed by the amount of interest in the data the Vision Impact Institute has on eyesight in China. The impact of vision impairment on children, particularly in rural areas, and how this impacts their education, was discussed.

The educational impact naturally affects economic growth and can result in a loss of productivity. $178 million are lost every day due to poor vision (3). In a country as industrious as China, this is obviously of paramount concern. Framing the issue in this way conveyed a triple awareness – it indicated that vision is truly a public health issue; it showed the large amount of money lost due to vision impairment; and it led to the discovery that, in most cases, solutions are at hand.

In fact, I believe we were able to open to the door to a huge range of possibilities for the Chinese public. Among them: new studies to evaluate the problem; awareness among China’s top policy makers; heightened eye health education for qualified professionals; and access to simple and affordable vision impairment solutions for children, workers, and migrants.

It is just the first step, but the Vision Impact Institute has an opportunity to set the standards for progress in China and in any country that needs the aid, awareness, and support. We hope to create an environment and network that seeks to offer everyone a basic human function – sight.

Jean-Felix Biosse Duplan

President of the Vision Impact Institute

References:

(1) Brien Holden 2013. “A vision for all to see”.
(2) Market data, Essilor.
(3) Smith TST, Frick KD, Holden BA, Fricke TR, Naidoo KS, Potential lost productivity resulting from the global burden of uncorrected refractive error. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 2009; 87, doi:  10.2471/BLT.08.055673

Click here to watch the video of Mr. Wu, Senior Diplomat and Advisory Board Member.
(In English & Chinese).

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