By Kristan Gross | Global Executive Director | Vision Impact Institute
From the Director’s Desk
Earlier this year in a guest blog, Professor Kovin Naidoo said, “It is very rare for a major public health issue to affect half of the world’s population. In order to reverse this trend we need to mobilize all players and consolidate efforts to achieve our goals.” Professor Naidoo was referring to the myopia epidemic that will impact so many of us in the future. Whether it’s myopia or other uncorrected refractive errors, impaired vision has a very real impact on all our lives.
This was the why behind our work in 2018 and the reason we must carry on. We can no longer look at vision as a separate problem in a silo. It’s an issue that should not only be part of public health, but also part of education, road safety, and gender equity conversations. After all, our commitment to good vision will translate into benefits well beyond being able to see well — to improved literacy, education, economic empowerment, and quality of life.
Our work this year has taken us across the globe to participate in these conversations. And while we can’t possibly capture all of them here, we hope these highlights will inspire you to continue Giving Vision a Voice in 2019. We look forward to having you on this journey with us.
1. Advocating for Children in New Jersey
As part of the Kids See: Success initiative, we have been working with elected officials in New Jersey to advocate for eye exams for children before they enter kindergarten. Earlier this quarter we were thrilled to learn that these collective efforts resulted in the introduction of Bill S2804, which we expect a vote on in the next couple of weeks.
2. Making Safer Roads
With the growing number of people on roads around the world, we continue to insert the topic of vision into road safety conversations. In India, we’ve finalized a study through the Central Road Research Institute in four cities to assess the impact of poor vision on commercial drivers. In Colombia, we’re beginning to build relationships, most recently by supporting FITVision at an awareness-raising event in Bogotá. And we’re making inroads on the topic in parts of Africa. At the recent 1st African Road Safety Forum, where we served on a panel with other key players, we aligned with The African Council of Optometry in joint support of the topic of vision and road safety at the event.
3. Reaching New Populations
This year we expanded our advocacy efforts in the Americas, Europe and Africa with two new team members. In June, Judith Marcano Williams joined the team as Program Manager, Americas; and in November, Eva Lazuka-Nicolaud came on board as Director, Europe/Africa. Judith and Eva will work with governments, key opinion leaders, and NGOs to raise awareness and advocate for good vision in these regions.
4. Powering Through Partnerships
In September, we announced a one-year collaboration with The Cooper Institute to raise awareness about the importance of good vision for children in conjunction with their focus on physical fitness. The collaboration is funded by The Rosewood Foundation and integrates vision into the organization’s focus on the ‘whole-child’ through communications that reach parents, students, teachers, and other partners.
5. Driving Decisions Through Research
With a firm belief that research is a key driver of policy change, we continued to build our unique curated research database. With 350+ papers and reports now available on our site, we encourage you to use the repository as a resource in your own awareness or advocacy work.
6. Amplifying Our Voic
When we talk about giving vision a voice, our diverse media partners are key players in championing the cause. This year we’re thankful for so many outlets including EdSource, New York Times, Hindu Business Line, Burlington County Times, and Global Health Now to name just a few. Whether it’s the topic of education, road safety, women’s issues or global health, it’s partners like these that are catalysts to reach audiences that can take action for good vision.
7. Advocating for Gender Equality
In a time when gender issues are at the forefront of many conversations, it’s important for us to highlight how being a woman could affect access to good vision in some parts of the world. Earlier in the year, we applauded the efforts of South Korean news anchor Lim Hyeon-Ju, who became the first female anchor in the country to wear eyeglasses on air. It’s a great example of what can happen when we realize that, when it comes to vision, glasses have no gender.
8. Highlighting Myopia
It’s no secret that myopia is on the rise. The trend has implications for all of us, everywhere. Nowhere is that more evident than in our schools and with our children. In June we had the opportunity to partner with Professor Kovin Naidoo on a panel at the School Based Health Alliance Convention in Indianapolis to address the topic and encourage and empower those who work in schools to be advocates for our children’s vision.
9. Speaking Out
In April, we had the opportunity to address American Optometric Association members and representatives at their annual advocacy days in Washington D.C. Together, we stood tall for vision and addressed key issues affecting vision care in the United States today.
10. Sharing the Narrative
It’s clear from all of our work this year that the collective voice is key to making a difference. We’re reminded that none of this work can happen without all of us standing in the gap for those who need our voice. One of the key highlights for us in 2018 has been the opportunity to work with all of you. With every call we make together to establish a connection, every blog post we write, every story that you reshare on social media, every event where we speak, there’s an exchange of information, ideas and energy that is the most powerful piece in helping us in our cause.
Compliments of Essilor International, a member of the EACCNY