#Loveyoureyes - World Sight Day 2023

Aloka Vision Programme: Reaching the unserved


Article first published: October 2023

In India, a yatra is a journey with a purpose. At the Aloka Vision Program, we undertake yatras every year to visit unserved regions, find new partners, and expand our reach. In 2023, the Yatra went to the tribal areas of Andhra Pradesh and covered 700 km to the Gadaba, Savara and Koya tribes who live in and around the forest and hilly areas of Andhra Pradesh. These tribes are engaged in various trades such as blacksmithing, carpentry, brass working and basket making. A local NGO, ASDS, which works for the development of the tribal people in these areas, was associated and helped in organizing these camps. They were instrumental in spreading the news and bringing people from 35 tribal villages to the camp site for testing.

Within a week, a total of 1.160 people were screened, of which 357 were referred to a higher center for cataract surgery. 665 people had refractive errors and were provided with Aloka glasses. The fact that almost all of the patients who came to the eye camp needed help correcting or restoring their vision underscores the great need for integrated eye care in such underserved regions. Once again, bringing eye care directly to the villages and workplaces of people in need proved to be an effective way to increase the reach and acceptance of eye care for underserved communities. The video captures some impressions from the trip.

A Yatra to the fishermen of Tamil Nadu

In 2019, the yatra took us to the "fishermen's district" in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. One of the patients, a 56-year-old fisherman from Rameswaram, was having difficulty focusing on distant objects. For those who do not know, deep-sea fishermen off the coast near the fishing town of Rameswaram have a unique way of identifying where to set their nets in the sea so that they can return to the same spot the next morning to enjoy the day's catch. They focus on three objects, one on their fishing boat and two on the ground or any other distant fixed object and all these must be parallel and that is where they find the net. The difficulty he encountered was that he couldn't focus on the distant objects and often missed the spot. He dismissed this problem as an age-related problem. In fact, vision problems can have a significant impact on people's daily lives and work.

Aloka makes sure that people like the fisherman get the attention and support they need. After having his eyes examined at the camp and receiving his new glasses, he was able to focus again without losing his catch. This is just one example of how vision can be improved to make life and work a little easier.

The camp this patient attended was held by the sea in this very rural area. Vision screenings are done for all ages. Most of the people in this area were fishermen. The main reason for conducting an eye camp in this area was that the fishermen are more exposed to the reflection of UV rays on the surface of the sea from the sun and drying eyes due to salty and dry air. In this place, no one has conducted the eye camp for the past 3 years. As we focus on integrated eye care, non-refractive errors are also screened. On this day alone, 120+ people with refractive errors were prescribed glasses, and 30+ people with cataracts and other eye conditions were referred to the nearby hospital for further evaluation.

The screenings are conducted with the help of local support groups who arrange for patients to come to the site on the day of the screening. All patient information is initially recorded in a registration book to ensure smooth operations and management of frame orders. Screenings begin with an objective refraction, which is commendable given the screening conditions and extremely uncomfortable weather. Once a prescription has been found and tested in a trial frame for patient satisfaction, a fundus photograph is taken with the ZEISS VisuScout, with suspect cases referred to local eye clinics for further evaluation. Patients are offered a choice of approximately 20 frame styles to try on and choose from, whether single vision or bifocal. A full range of readers is also available for immediate dispensing. Patients receive their customized eyewear from a local health worker within maximum 10 days of delivery.

Aloka makes sure that people like the fisherman get the attention and support they need.

A kid’s workplace is at school

Children's work is to learn and get the best education possible. If their eyesight is compromised, this work can be severely impacted, such as myopia and difficulties to follow the teacher. Since eye exams and vision tests are not mandatory in Indian schools, the Aloka Vision Program fills a gap in public healthcare by providing free eye exams, vision tests and eyeglasses to underprivileged children in government schools. Each month, hundreds of underprivileged children are screened, provided with eyeglasses if needed, and referred to partner eye clinics if a more comprehensive eye exam is required. We've partnered with the Lions Club for this school initiative, and it's gratifying to see that so many teachers and students appreciate the work we do together.

In 2022/23, Aloka conducted over 200 camps in 220 schools, screened over 96,000 people and provided glasses to 6,000 beneficiaries through the Lions Club partnership in government schools in Karnataka, Goa and Chittoor districts of Andhra Pradesh. Approximately 2,500 children were referred to partner hospitals and eye clinics for further intervention. Once again, the numbers illustrate the great need for these services to be taken directly to those who need them. And the numbers, as well as the impact and appreciation of the schools, teachers, children and Lions Club members for our initiative, motivate ZEISS to continue.

About the Aloka Vision Programme

Aloka has been operational in India since 2015. The team is based in Bengaluru, Karnataka for all field operations, partner relations, supply chain and program development. Today it is led by Dr. Premjeeth Moodbidri with a core team of optometrists and back-office staff. It is supported by the Optometry Council of India, students from optometry colleges, Lions Club volunteers, ophthalmologists, health workers - and our partners: non-governmental organizations committed to promoting clear vision for all.

The entire operation is set up as an independent entity, initiated and supported by ZEISS, but self-governed and working as a partnership network for NGOs, hospitals, and institutions. The Aloka Vision Program is part of ZEISS' social engagement and social business strategy and has been established to contribute to the sustainability goals of the ZEISS Group, which include a commitment to eye care and public health.

About ZEISS

ZEISS is an internationally leading technology enterprise operating in the fields of optics and optoelectronics. In the previous fiscal year, the ZEISS Group generated annual revenue totaling 8.8 billion euros in its four segments Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology, Industrial Quality & Research, Medical Technology and Consumer Markets (status: 30 September 2022).

For its customers, ZEISS develops, produces and distributes highly innovative solutions for industrial metrology and quality assurance, microscopy solutions for the life sciences and materials research, and medical technology solutions for diagnostics and treatment in ophthalmology and microsurgery. The name ZEISS is also synonymous with the world's leading lithography optics, which are used by the chip industry to manufacture semiconductor components. There is global demand for trendsetting ZEISS brand products such as eyeglass lenses, camera lenses and binoculars.

With a portfolio aligned with future growth areas like digitalization, healthcare and Smart Production and a strong brand, ZEISS is shaping the future of technology and constantly advancing the world of optics and related fields with its solutions. The company's significant, sustainable investments in research and development lay the foundation for the success and continued expansion of ZEISS' technology and market leadership. ZEISS invests 13 percent of its revenue in research and development – this high level of expenditure has a long tradition at ZEISS and is also an investment in the future.

With over 38,000 employees, ZEISS is active globally in almost 50 countries with around 30 production sites, 60 sales and service companies and 27 research and development facilities (status: 30 September 2022). Founded in 1846 in Jena, the company is headquartered in Oberkochen, Germany. The Carl Zeiss Foundation, one of the largest foundations in Germany committed to the promotion of science, is the sole owner of the holding company, Carl Zeiss AG.

Further information at www.zeiss.com

ZEISS Vision Care

ZEISS Vision Care is one of the world's leading manufacturers of eyeglass lenses and ophthalmic instruments. The unit is allocated to the Consumer Markets segment and develops and produces offerings for the entire eyeglass value chain that are distributed globally under the ZEISS brand.

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ZEISS Vision Care
Joachim Kuss
Communications
Mail: joachim .kuss @zeiss .com

Phone: +49 (0) 151 42112288

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