Article Date: 10/1/2006

reflections - THE HUMAN SIDE OF OPTOMETRY
Giving Sight, Giving Hope

Together we can help the millions of people in the world who don't receive eye care.

BY KRISTIE L. MADARA,
CIBA VISION/OPTOMETRY GIVING SIGHT CORPORATE FELLOW

CIBA Vision was the first corporation to partner with Optometry Giving Sight (OGS) globally to give sight to millions in need. The company committed $1 million over the next five years and funded a Corporate Fellow position — a full-time CIBA Vision employee, dedicated to working with OGS to support global development and expansion of the program.

Making it happen

This partnership was an easy decision for CIBA Vision. Our mission as a company is to provide "Better Eyes for a Better Life." That means ensuring quality eye care through innovative products that address refractive error. And it was an easy decision for me to be the first to take on the Corporate Fellow role. I was amazed to learn of the staggering number of people (current estimates are at least 250 million) in the world who are visually impaired or even blind, with some kids who were not blind spending years in blind programs, simply because they don't have access to an eye exam and a pair of glasses. 

OGS is based on a simple concept — partnering with the global optometric community to fund a sustainable solution for providing eye care services in countries where none exist. With more than 200,000 optometrists seeing 325 million patients a year around the world, the campaign has the potential to make a huge impact. I was very fortunate to witness that impact firsthand when I visited an OGS-supported project benefiting the people of Sri Lanka.

One of the first things that struck me about Sri Lanka was the desperate need for quality health care — including vision care — even without the devastating affects of the tsunami. The tsunami just added immense challenges for people who already live extremely hard lives. People walked miles in the heat and stood in line for hours to get an eye exam. For many, it was the first they'd ever had.

It was very rewarding to see a child get her first eye exam and learn that one of the reasons she hadn't been doing well in school was that she couldn't see the chalkboard clearly. That a child could go through her life without getting any eye care is unacceptable.

It was equally rewarding to give better sight to a 78-year-old woman who had also never had her eyes examined. But what really made clear to me the incredible impact OGS can have was seeing a 13-year-old boy with alternating esotropia that could have been corrected if he had received an eye exam and glasses earlier in his life.

A better future

What makes OGS unique is that it only funds programs that are sustainable, training local personnel to perform eye exams, establishing vision centers, etc. It's not only about addressing immediate needs, but also ensuring that quality, local eye care is available going forward. We've already begun training local health care workers in Sri Lanka.

For OGS, Sri Lanka is just the beginning. We need funds for many regions of the world that desperately need eyecare services. It should be an easy decision for all of us to get involved.

DO YOU HAVE A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE? DISCUSS YOUR STORY WITH RENé LUTHE, SENIOR ASSOCIATE EDITOR OF OPTOMETRIC MANAGEMENT, AT (215) 643-8132 OR LUTHER@LWWVISIONCARE.COM. OM OFFERS AN HONORARIUM FOR PUBLISHED SUBMISSIONS.



Optometric Management, Issue: October 2006