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The Billions Around the World Whose Lives Could Be Changed With Glasses

Photo: Courtesy of Scott Van Daalen

Clear sight is something we take for granted, but now more than ever it can make a difference for our future.

When was the last time you thought about your eyesight? Probably not unless there was something wrong with it, and if there is a problem, it’s generally not too hard to get it fixed with a visit to an optometrist. However, there are over a billion people around the world for whom this problem is not so easily fixed, even in the United States, where vision care is relatively easy to access. We know that a simple pair of glasses can have long-term, life-changing benefits.

No one needs glasses more than children. Right now, approximately one in four students has an undiagnosed visual impairment. That has huge implications for our educational system. Kids who can’t see the board or their textbooks risk falling behind and only learning about half as much as they could be. That’s like missing half of a school year. Couple that statistic with millions of students now learning remotely and spending hours staring at screens, and you have the potential for a major setback for the youngest generation.

However, most kids don’t realize they have a vision problem. Young children often think everyone sees (or doesn’t see) the way they do, so they don’t know to say that things look fuzzy. 

So, what’s a parent to do? The biggest step is an eye exam every one to two years after age 6. That may not be possible or practical right now with restrictions due to COVID-19, but there are other ways to tell if a child is having problems seeing. Organizations like OneSight have created online vision screening tools to help. It’s important to note that this is not a substitute for an eye exam, but it can help uncover any obvious issues. 

This is also just as true for adults. While the problem is more urgent for children in their prime learning years, there are also many adults who can’t get the glasses they need. That means limited prospects for them in terms of both earning potential and productivity. One estimate puts the total cost in terms of lost productivity around the world at around $244 billion a year. Think of all we could be accomplishing with everyone able to see their work, their lessons and their world clearly.

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