May is Healthy Vision Month in the United States
May is Healthy Vision Month in the United States! An initiative of the National Eye Institute and the CDC’s Vision Health Initiative, it encourages Americans to make vision a health priority.
Did you know that in the United States, an estimated 11 million people aged 12 years and older could see better if they used corrective lens?
They have eye conditions like refractive errors, which happen when the shape of your eye doesn’t bend light correctly. Refractive errors are common problems easily corrected with glasses or contact lenses, and in some cases, laser surgery.
In fact, refractive errors are the most common cause of vision impairment and the second leading cause of blindness in the world, affecting 671 million people. They include myopia (short-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness), astigmatism and presbyopia.
While these eye conditions affect a large portion of the population in the United States, they are particularly problematic in developing countries, where the people affected may not be able to afford vision exams or the glasses they need to help improve their vision. Access to eye care is an additional challenge for those living in rural areas, as often most ophthalmologists and optometrists are based in cities, leaving a shortage of trained eye health care professionals working in the countryside.
In Africa today, only 1 in 550 children have access to glasses. In Central and West French-speaking and Portuguese-speaking African countries, there are no active large-scale school eye health programs. Yet, according to a World Bank study, children with visual impairment are on average five to seven percentage points less likely to ever enroll in school, complete their primary education, and be literate than children without disabilities.
Vision conditions that could largely be corrected go untreated. As a result, many children drop out of school, discouraged by their poor performance due to not being able to see the blackboard well or read their textbooks. Ending their education early prevents children from reaching their full potential, which affects not only themselves and their families, but also the communities and countries in which they live.
At OPC, this is unacceptable. We believe that no child should be left behind when the solution is simple and inexpensive: an eye exam and a pair of glasses.
FORESIGHT, OPC’s School Eye Health Program
To address this issue, OPC launched #FORESIGHT, our dedicated school eye health program. Through #FORESIGHT, OPC implements sustainable and comprehensive eye care projects in schools in 17 African countries aimed at addressing and correcting refractive errors.
We work closely with Ministries of Health and Education, as well as other local and international partners to:
- Train teachers to provide health education and perform vision acuity tests
- Conduction of refraction test for teachers and students on school site
- Administer additional screenings by eye care professionals in a well-staffed and well-equipped eye clinic for at-risk children and school staff
- Refer children according to their needs and provide the necessary treatment and follow ups
- Conduct an annual follow-up to review the status of the children who received eyeglasses in the previous year
- Ensure best eye health practices and promote rise awareness of preventable eye diseases
With this program, OPC extends the reach of its actions in Africa. A trusted partner in French-speaking African countries since our creation in 1978, we will now be present in Portuguese-speaking countries including Angola and Equatorial Guinea.
By 2025, our goal is to have:
- 6.9 million people screened for potential vision issues.
- 1.7 million people examined by an ophthalmologist.
- 260,000 people equipped with glasses.
#FORESIGHT strengthens OPC’s commitment to advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDGs #1 (fight against poverty), #3 (good health and well-being) and #4 (good education). Ensuring that all children have healthy vision will help them stay in school and thrive, thereby contributing to the sustainable development of their communities. In addition, support for eye care in schools will allow girls and women to access health services that are sometimes denied to them in their regions.
How You Can Help
In honor of Healthy Vision Month, you can help us reach our #FORESIGHT goals! When you make a monthly or one-time donation to OPC, you are investing in Africa’s future, ensuring that children gain access to the vision exams and glasses that they need to thrive.
You can also follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates on all our programs.