New PROSPER Study, Published This Week, Affirms Eyeglasses’ Boost to Worker Productivity

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NEW YORK—Control trial results of a new study, called PROSPER (Productivity Study of Presbyopia Elimination in Rural-dwellers), a collaborative effort undertaken by VisionSpring, Clearly, Orbis and Queens University Belfast, has been published this week by The Lancet Global Health. The study, linked here affirms that eyeglasses have the potential to dramatically boost worker productivity worldwide. In India, providing tea pickers with corrective lenses improved worker productivity by 21.7 percent, with productivity increasing to almost 32 percent when vision correction was provided to workers over 50. This represents the largest ever recorded productivity increase from any health intervention.

With 2.5 billion people worldwide suffering from poor vision and no access to glasses, the research demonstrates the crucial role of glasses in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The findings will intensify the pressure on companies all over the world to ensure that their workers have access to glasses, which can cost as little as $1.50 to produce, and other eyecare treatments, the organizations said. It will also add to the growing clamor for large companies who operate in poorer countries to provide free work-based sight tests, meaning the findings could have a game-changing impact on the way companies prepare their staff for work.

PROSPER is the first ever randomized controlled trial to explore the link between clear vision and productivity, representing a significant step forward in understanding of the role of clear vision in accelerating the Sustainable Development Goals. The trial, which involved 750 mainly female workers on plantations in Assam, showed that the daily weight of tea picked by those given glasses increased by over 5 kilos, which translated directly into increased income for the tea-pickers and their families.

The research was sponsored by Clearly, a global campaign to bring clear vision to the 2.5 billion people worldwide denied it as quickly as possible. It was carried out in collaboration with VisionSpring, a social enterprise dedicated to providing affordable glasses across the world, and Orbis, a global organization fighting avoidable blindness worldwide.

James Chen, founder of Clearly, said, “Seven hundred years after glasses were first invented we now have conclusive proof of the link between clear vision and productivity. Poor vision is the scandal the world forgot and affects a third of the world’s population. Solving this issue will accelerate progress against the UN’s goals on health, quality education, decent work, gender equality and poverty elimination.”

Ella Gudwin, president of VisionSpring, added, “We now know definitively that a simple pair of reading glasses transforms workers’ productivity, not just in offices but in agriculture. This has profound implications. It means there is a cost effective and easy way to boost both household income and business performance in lower income communities. While the study focused on tea estates, we see broad applicability across a wide range of labor intensive workplaces.”

Professor Nathan Congdon of Queens University Belfast and director of research at Orbis International, the study’s principal investigator said, “We thought it was crucial to demonstrate that performance even of tasks which may not seem obviously visual can be boosted so impressively by glasses. Nearly 90 percent of workers were still wearing their glasses by the end of the study and virtually all were willing to pay to replace them if needed—people knew they were benefitting from better vision.”

Through its Clear Vision Workplace program, VisionSpring enables businesses to ensure their workers, quality control teams, and managers see clearly, and helps companies achieve their worker well-being objectives. This year alone, VisionSpring will screen the vision of 60,000 people working in agriculture, apparel and home goods, and provide them with the glasses they need. Through public-private partnerships, millions of workers around the world could see well and do well.

Clearly will write to leading businesses sharing the results of the trial and urging them to introduce work-based sight strategies.