World Sight Day Activities and Messages Amplify Awareness of Healthy Vision

NEW YORK—The voices, social media messages and outreach of thousands of eyecare professionals, dozens of U.S. and international organizations, foundations, social purpose groups and optical companies contributed to a global crescendo about the importance of improving access to vision care on Oct. 10 in honor of World Sight Day 2019. A series of initiatives advocated for more financial support and increased awareness for the value and importance of healthy vision and expanding eyecare and eyewear products and services to those in need.

The World Council of Optometry (WCO), representing over 200,000 optometrists in more than 80 countries, spans nearly 300 combined Country, Affiliate, Corporate and Individual Memberships across six world regions–Africa, Asia Pacific, Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, Latin America and North America. In endorsing the goals of World Sight Day, Dr. Scott Mundle, president of WCO, said, “We encourage everyone to be vigilant in our collective goal of eliminating avoidable blindness. With the impending crisis of significant levels of high myopia on the horizon, WCO is taking an active role in the management and prevention of myopia and other eye diseases.

“WCO has been working with other organizations, including the IAPB, to further this cause. With the release of the World Health Organization of the World Report on Vision, it is our hope that myopia management, uncorrected refractive error and eye diseases, including cataract, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration, will have the global attention they deserve.”

Included in the World Report on Vision Report is the recommendation that member WHO nations adopt a Universal Health Coverage strategy to deal with these eye health issues. “We urge governments around the world to act upon this call to action by the World Health Organization,” said Dr. Mundle.

Paul Folkesson, president-elect of WCO noted, “We need to urge regions and country authorities around the globe to act upon the recently published World Report on Vision by WHO. The report points out the enormous effect on civil society due to the number of visually impaired persons. Such a crisis demands a large increase in the number of well-trained eye health professionals of all cadres to ensure access and quality care for the patients. Optometry is educated and is well positioned to take on this challenge for the benefit of eye health globally.”

ABB Optical Group, a leading national provider of optical products, services and business solutions for the eyecare industry, reconfirmed its participation as a corporate sponsor for the 2019 World Sight Day Challenge. “Everyone—children, men and women—deserves access to quality vision care. Preventable blindness is a solvable problem. By contributing to Optometry Giving Sight’s World Sight Day Challenge, we help to provide people in need with hope for a life full of opportunity” said ABB Optical Group CEO Tom Burke. ABB Optical and our team of more than 1,000 dedicated employees are proud to once again be a sponsor of this important campaign.”

In addition to ABB Optical Group’s corporate sponsorship, the company also held a social media charity drive. Through October 31, for every new person that follows the company on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, ABB Optical Group donated an additional $1 to Optometry Giving Sight. Since 2011, ABB Optical Group has donated nearly $250,000 to Optometry Giving Sight through its annual World Sight Day Challenge fundraising initiatives, employee donations and other year-round charitable fundraising initiatives. Donations collected through fundraising can help in many ways.

Not-for-profit Restoring Vision also reminded people of the transformation of peoples’ lives with a pair of glasses and improved access to vision care. Restoring Vision has partnered with more than 1,400 charitable organizations and supplied glasses to over 15 million people in need across 130 countries. It’s “VisionFirst” message was conveyed via social media and to its partners during this year’s World Sight Day.

Modo Eyewear partnered with Seva Foundation to join in and raise awareness of blindness and vision impairment, the company said. “To help children in underprivileged areas, we’ve partnered with Seva to help one child see for each frame sold. We’ve helped more than one million children so far, and we’re proud to be the sponsor of many more to come.”

In another initiative during World Sight Day, Prevent Blindness said it has partnered with Horizon Therapeutics plc (Nasdaq: HZNP) to launch a campaign that brings together the voices of the thyroid eye disease (TED) community to educate the public on how TED can damage vision and encourage people who are living with TED to put their vision first by sharing their experiences, monitoring their symptoms and finding the right doctor.

Through Oct. 31, 2019, Horizon donated $1 (up to $10,000) to Prevent Blindness every time someone texts “EYE” to 56512. The campaign also invited the thyroid eye disease (TED) community to visit to share how they have seen TED affect vision. TED is a serious, progressive and vision-threatening autoimmune disease. Common symptoms include light sensitivity, eye grittiness, bulging eyes and double vision, among others—all of which can reduce a person’s independence, ability to work and self-confidence. A new Prevent Blindness resource fact sheet can enable doctors and patients to learn more about thyroid eye disease.

In Canada, in honor of World Sight Day, eSight and CNIB announced a new partnership. CNIB is a non-profit organization driven to change what it means to be blind today. The partnership, the first of its kind for eSight, will expand access of its flagship product, eSight 3, to individuals living with sight loss in Canada. Recognized as a “Top Innovation” by Time Magazine, eSight 3 is an advanced assistive device that enables many individuals living with central vision loss to see more clearly.

“This partnership will make a significant difference in the lives and independence of many Canadians with sight loss,” said John M. Rafferty, president and CEO, of the CNIB Foundation. “With greater access to eSight, many individuals will have opportunities they never before thought possible—to see the faces of their loved ones, to return to work, to perform better in school, to rediscover hobbies and feel more confident in new environments.”

Starting October 10, eSight 3 became available for purchase at five CNIB locations in British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia, together with training provided by both eSight and CNIB. The program will expand to CNIB locations across Canada in the following 12 months, providing greater ease of access and training support for low vision Canadians.

“CNIB was the obvious choice as our premier national distribution partner because we share a passion to change the lives of Canadians living with visual impairments,” said Sam Ifergan, executive chairman of eSight. “We’re proud to partner with CNIB as our premier retail and training destination where Canadians can experience the amazing benefits of eSight before they purchase.”

Approximately 1.5 million Canadians aged 15 years or older live with a vision-related disability, while 5.6 million more have an eye disease that could cause vision impairments. As the population ages, the number of people impacted by vision loss in Canada will increase dramatically—by more than 30 percent in just the next decade, eSight noted. The most common eye conditions among current eSight users are macular degeneration, Stargardt disease, ocular albinism, retinopathy of prematurity and a host of other eye conditions.

Hubert Sagnieres, executive vice chairman of EssilorLuxottica, is a leading proponent in the global fight against poor vision caused by uncorrected refractive error. On World Sight Day, the French magazine Les Echos published an op-ed article by Sagnieres that calls for forming a global alliance that brings together governments, industry players, NGOs and associations to fight what he said is a “global humanitarian crisis.” Sagnieres elaborated on this idea in an exclusive interview with VM and at a recent meeting held in conjunction with U.N. General Assembly week.