Good and healthy vision for all: the World Health Organization (WHO) aims to ensure this. The World Sight Day raises awareness for this plight every year. In 2019, the international call to action is “Vision First”. ZEISS supports this with strong partners and global initiatives.
According to the initiative Vision 2020, 36 million people worldwide are blind and 270 million have serious refractive errors. These are alarming figures, and World Sight Day aims to make people aware of them.
In Mongolia, 30% of the population is under 15, and the majority of these children have a visual impairment. Children’s eyes develop until they are six. Thus, giving young children eye exams is important for identifying and addressing refractive errors early on. If we can successfully diagnose and treat visual defects in children by the time they turn six, this would be an important step toward achieving better vision.
Imagine you carried around 10 kilograms for an entire day. Come evening, your hands and arms would hurt. Our eyes are likewise being asked to do a lot of heavy lifting as we spend more time working at the computer, watching TV and checking our smartphones.
Our eyes have to put in a lot of effort because we want to look at everything up close. But our eye muscles need time to relax. So what can you do to ensure good vision? Adapting your lifestyle and taking the time to look into the distance more frequently would give your eyes a chance to relax.
of our sensory input is received through our eyes.1
people do not currently have access to eye care.2
people have to live with defective vision or the threat of blindness. This is usually due to inadequate local ophthalmic care.3
If you consider why people in emerging and developing nations have to deal with inadequate eye care, you can't fail to notice one key factor: the lack of local specialists who can perform eye exams and vision tests. While one ophthalmologist or optometrist in Europe serves 6,000–9,000 patients, the ratio in a place like Uganda is 1:250,000. What does this mean? Many people have no hope of getting an eye exam. As a result, they often know little about visual correction and are skeptical about wearing glasses.
The opening of an Optical Center in Kyamulibwa, Uganda, is an EDA initiative that aims to help local people by partnering with eye care professionals (ECPs) and ZEISS. Eight locals have been trained in the profession since August 2019.
We caught up with ECP Marc Harder in a spacious building that houses an excellent workshop, where he has been teaching students for six months. “In the beginning a lot needed to be organized, like lens blanks and learning materials.”
The eight trainees learned the basics of the profession, as well as how their job differs from that of an eye doctor.
“Lessons generally run from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.,” says Marc. “Students start by learning how to convert units such as diopters into length units, and fractions into decimals; this initially took a little getting used to. But, I was surprised by the speed at which we were able to get through the material. This meant we wasted no time in learning more about topics like ametropia, different lens types and astigmatism.”
The real highlight for the students was and is the practical part of their training.
At the moment mornings are spent learning about refraction and afternoons are used to practice lens centering, identify lens powers using an automated lensmeter, and glaze lenses, i.e. fit them to the frames.
Marc tells us that it’s trickier to run a project like this in a rural area than it is in a city. The major challenge is to secure the funding to cover local glasses requirements. Many people who need glasses simply cannot afford them.
“In Africa things take time; people need a while to discuss the offer before they can think about accepting it. By training eye care specialists, the project has a long-term aim and creates new jobs in the local area, while addressing the root cause of this lack of care head-on.4
Dr. Vinod Kumar is a dentist and a Lion – a longstanding member of the Lions Club of Bangalore Shikshana in District 314. As the chairman for children’s vision and dental care in his district, one of his duties is to organize vision care programs for underprivileged kids. “When I took on this role I called ZEISS and asked for some support,” says Dr. Vinod. “Since I knew about their Vision Care business I had hoped they could help me set up a comprehensive program in Bangalore and Karnataka.”
By working together we can make a great impact and get a comprehensive children’s vision program underway in our district.
Together with Dr. Premjeeth Moodbidri and the Aloka team, a solution was found without delay: “The Lions Club has access to government schools and our members are happy to run health camps and perform eye exams at schools. The Aloka team knows how to screen hundreds of schoolkids effectively and provide all those in need with quality eye care.” Sounds like a perfect match.
Every month hundreds of kids are screened, provided with glasses if needed and referred to partner eye clinics if an in-depth eye exam proves necessary.
As eye exams and vision tests are not mandatory at Indian schools, this initiative fills a gap in public healthcare.
“The next step is to convert a van into a mobile vision center. This will make it much easier to visit suburban and rural government schools in the state of Karnataka. The Lions Club is grateful that ZEISS and Aloka support us in a straightforward way and it’s a real pleasure to see that our work is appreciated by so many teachers and students.”
Handling large numbers of patients is something all major outreach programs have to consider very carefully. That’s because bringing eye and vision care to unserved regions and populations almost always means that an optometrist must screen hundreds of people in the space of just one day. Of course, quality must not be compromised, and everyone deserves a professional service and consultation, as well as a range of fashionable, quality frames to choose from, if he or she needs glasses.
The eye camp shown here took place in Bangalore in August 2019; it welcomed 640+ kids from government-run schools. The day was initiated and organized by our partner, the Lions Club of Bangalore, and all eye exams and vision tests were performed by the Aloka Vision Programme team, which ZEISS supports.
Get ready by equipping the venue as per the screening protocol: Based on many years of experience and thousands of screenings, the Aloka team knows how to organize an eye camp and eliminate long waiting times.
The schoolkids in India are polite and friendly. Accompanied by their teachers, they arrive on time and are ready for the vision test as soon as it’s their turn.
Everyone moves through the eye camp in one direction, starting at the registration and patient information station. All data collected is treated as confidential, but is also used to organize treatment and follow-up with the school groups.
Just like at an optometrist’s following a few initial questions, the first station focuses on objective refraction, to diagnose ametropia and any other visual impairments. This doesn’t take long and, fortunately, the vast majority of students have clear vision and healthy eyes.
Separating ametropes from emmetropes, e.g. by performing a visual acuity test or an autorefraction plus examination of the anterior and posterior of the eye, comes with one absolutely essential benefit: enough time for vision tests with the kids who really need them.
The vision test – subjective refraction – is done at Aloka eye camps in a very traditional and proven way: using trial lenses and vision charts. It delivers good results and allows the optometrists to talk to the children. This is the first time that most of these kids have ever seen an optometrist. So giving them information and making them feel comfortable matter.
Last but not least is frame selection – and honestly, this is what kids spend a lot of time on. Accepting that you have to wear glasses is one thing. The other is the knowledge that everyone wants to look good (and what their friends at school say matters).
The Aloka team always ensures two more things: that all kids can learn something about the eyes and vision. And that there is a follow-up to check compliance of glasses wearers, and every kid is re-screened 1 or 2 years later. Sustainability in eye and vision care is key.
Not only do children suffering from albinism have to protect their skin from the sun, their eyes are also sensitive to the light and they suffer from visual impairments.
That’s what prompted European experts to set up a home in Tanzania where they could examine the albino kids. They took with them 166 pairs of glasses equipped with special filters – and the hope of helping the kids become more independent.