Essilor Says $14 Billion Can Wipe Out Uncorrected Poor Vision by 2050

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Richard Jones of Devex,
left, interviewing Essilor’s Hubert Sagnieres during yesterday’s session on universal health coverage, held on the sidelines of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

NEW YORK—A new report released yesterday by Essilor estimates it will cost $14 billion to wipe out uncorrected poor vision on a global scale in one generation. The report’s key findings were presented and debated during a panel discussion hosted by Essilor on the sidelines of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. It marks the first time a price has been assigned to the goal of eliminating the uncorrected poor vision, which Essilor calls “the world’s most widespread disability.”

Uncorrected poor vision, also known as uncorrected refractive error, affects 2.7 billion people across the globe, 90 percent of whom live at the economic base of the pyramid, and costs the global economy $272 billion in lost productivity each year, according to Essilor, which based the estimate on analytical support from McKinsey & Co. By 2050, uncorrected poor vision is predicted to reach epidemic proportions, with over 50 percent of the world’s population expected to suffer from myopia, many with serious vision-threatening side effects and drastic long-term implications.

Essilor said it initiated the report to gather more evidence-based insight into the scale of this vision care crisis, accelerate the identification of possible solutions and mobilize both public and private stakeholders. The report’s findings suggest that uncorrected poor vision can be eliminated by 2050 through an investment of $14 billion over the next 30 years, dedicated to creating sustainable access points to eyecare, innovating for affordable solutions, funding subsidized and free services, and raising awareness.

“As the world leader in ophthalmic optics, and a firm believer in business as a force for good, our ambition is to eliminate poor vision within one generation, said Hubert Sagnieres, executive vice-chairman of EssilorLuxottica and chairman of Essilor International. “While there have been many successful initiatives by both public and private actors in recent years, there is clearly a need to do more to bring good vision to everyone. At the same time, there is simply no blueprint to achieve our ambition. This report will provide the necessary guidance while engaging the different stakeholders towards one goal. It illustrates our endeavor to take our efforts further by investigating this vision crisis and uncovering how to solve it. Governments, NGOs, bilateral and multilateral organizations, donors, eyecare professionals and the private sector all have a role to play as we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to end a public health crisis.”

Sagnieres told VMail, “What makes our fight against poor vision unique is that maybe for the first time ever, you can solve a handicap with solutions that are already in hand. It’s just a matter of motivation. That’s what makes us unique in the healthcare area. To fight other types of disease, you have to develop research. We know how to produce eyeglasses at 50 cents and deliver them for $1 in every corner of the world. But we have to fight for accessibility and awareness.

“With this report we have proven that for less than half a billion dollars a year, we can eradicate poor vision worldwide. It’s pocket money. What we need is the world opening their eyes and taking this handicap seriously.”

Sagineres spoke about the report's findings during a session on universal health coverage held in conjunction with the 74th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. The session also featured a panel discussion with Jayanth Bhuvaraghan, chief mission officer, EssilorLuxottica and Essilor SAS; Allyala Nandakumar, chief economist, Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, USA and former chief economist for global Health, USAID; Professor Serge Resnikoff, international expert on eye health and former senior policy advisor and coordinator, World Health Organization; Liz Smith, co-founder and CEO, EYElliance; Nick Martin, deputy chief executive officer, The Fred Hollows Foundation. The panel was moderated by Richard Jones, editorial director of Devex which hosted the event.

Watch for more of VMail's exclusive interview with Sagnieres and Bhuvaraghan.