The Biggest Health Crisis You’ve Never Heard of

What’s the Problem?

As someone who’s worn glasses for most of her life, it’s easy to take these little plastic lenses for granted. But it recently occurred to me through this tweet that if it wasn’t for the development of optometry, natural selection would have come for me a long time ago. According to a study done by CBS, more than 6 in 10 people wear glasses or contact lenses; that’s a majority of 61% of the world’s population. But how much of the world’s population needs glasses and doesn’t have them?

According to researchers, the answer is more than 1 billion people (with some estimates putting the figure closer to 2.5 billion). There’s no doubt that worldwide optical health is an underlooked problem. The World Health Organization has estimated that it costs the global economy more than $200 billion annually. Nigerian truck drivers struggle to see pedestrians crossing the streets, while farmers in Bolivia have difficulties seeing objects up close, rendering it difficult to see when beans are ready for harvest. There also seems to be an alarming complacence for the issue by big name philanthropists. Hubert Sagniers, partner of the EYElliance fundraising campaign, approached Bill Gates to pitch the cause. Bill (philanthropist extraordinaire, estimated to have donated close to $50 billion in charitable donations in his lifetime) politely refused, stating that he “had other priorities”. The Gates foundation was not able to comment.

Though this week’s blog post may be reminiscent of an article you’d have to read in English class, at SHYNE Eyewear, we believe optic resources are a basic human right. Awareness is the first step to action.

So where in the world do these untreated vision problems prevail?

In India, tens of millions of school children can’t afford an eye exam or prescription eyeglasses, both of which are seemingly simple solutions to a problem with severe adverse effects. Poor eyesight often leads to kids being labelled as poor learners, putting a damper on their confidence and educational progress - thereby further contributing to these countries’ continued struggle in breaking out of the cycle of poverty. Systemic challenges facing individuals in countries should also be considered. Glasses are seen as a sign of fragility and weakness in India, and wearing them is thus seen as an obstacle for women looking to marry.

In Uganda, there are 45 eye doctors. In total. For a country with a population of 41 million people. And until 2017, Liberia did not have a single eye clinic. In rural areas of the country, many people have never even seen a child wearing glasses. Ellen Sirleaf, former president of Liberia, noted that “drivers don’t even know they have a deficiency. They just drive the best they can.”

What’s the solution?

The thing that’s so frustrating about all of this is that the solution is so simple. This huge health problem, that’s overlooked by philanthropists, governments, and health organizations alike, simply comes in the form of two plastic lenses held together by a piece of metal (and sometimes 100% recycled plastic, in our case 😉). Glasses that correct nearsightedness can be manufactured by factories in Thailand, China, and the Philippines for less than 50 cents a pair. Besides the obvious perk of correcting a person’s vision, glasses provide a host of benefits including higher rates of literacy, improvements in road safety, improving productivity, and allowing individuals to do skilled work. Glasses also have the potential to increase an individual’s income by up to 20%. It’s important to realize that, unfortunately, clear vision is not a right everyone - for many, it’s a privilege, and by looking at the statistics, it’s obvious that simply having the ability to correct poor sight is a privilege as well.

It’s heartening to know, however, that eyeglasses are the simple solution to improving billions of lives. And know that every time you purchase a pair of glasses from SHYNE Eyewear, you’re helping to bring empowerment and sight to one more person.

To learn more about the global eyesight crisis, check out this link and this one.

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