What would you do if you suddenly couldn’t read the words on this page? If you have adequate means, you’d probably have someone take you to the hospital immediately when experiencing vision loss.
However, not everyone has the privilege of seeking care. Fortunately, philanthropist James Chen saw the need to address those losing their sight while lacking resources. He recently partnered with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness to further his dream of helping the world see more clearly.
The Mission of James Chen and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness
Over the past 15 years, James Chen has been both funding and leading work to bring eyeglasses to everyone in the world who needs them. Chen learned the importance of giving back from his father, who created a foundation to support childhood literacy.
Chen believes the ability to see is a vital gateway to education, work and building a better life. He is the co-founder of Adlens, a company that pioneers adaptive optics technologies. He also co-founded Vision for a Nation, a charity devoted to supporting emerging nations in providing affordable eyeglasses and optometry care to citizens.
His new partnership with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness commences on January 1, 2021, as part of his Clearly campaign. The group consists of more than 150 members working in international eye health and global advocacy.
The partnership’s goal is to increase pressure on governments and global leaders to end the vision crisis. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it will cost an estimated $14.3 billion to treat the estimated billion citizens worldwide currently living with cataracts, short and farsightedness.
The need is dire. Even in the wealthy United States, only 23% of private industry employees have access to vision coverage plans. Medicare does not currently cover glasses except in isolated cases after cataract surgery. Some states Medicaid plans do, but some restrict access to children only.
The Various Causes of Vision Loss Worldwide
What causes vision loss? Blindness can occur from various causes, including injury and illness. However, in many cases, people could maintain their sight if they had adequate means.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that blurs an individual’s vision over time, making focus challenging. The condition results from damage to the retina and can eventually lead to blindness. As the population continues to grow older, more people will experience vision problems. Age is the number one risk factor for AMD. And it’s important to keep in mind that getting older doesn’t necessarily equate to having adequate resources for care.
Cataracts result when proteins in your eye begin to break down and clump together, frequently around age 40. These masses of proteins form a cloudy surface. While surgery can correct the problem, the condition can result in blindness when left untreated.
Glaucoma is another eye disease that can eventually lead to blindness. In this condition, excess pressure in your eye damages your optic nerve, which carries sensory input from the organ to your brain. Unfortunately, the disorder advances so slowly that many people won’t recognize symptoms until more advanced stages without routine exams.
Finally, nearsightedness and farsightedness result in unnecessary injuries, accidents and, occasionally, blindness. While nearsightedness is usually benign, if it advances to high myopia, it puts the individual at a higher risk for developing retinal detachment, glaucoma or cataracts.
The effects on daily life are as problematic. In developed countries where nearly everyone drives, countless individuals get behind the wheel with untreated visual impairments. They may feel they have no choice — for example, they may need to attend work — but that excuse comes as cold comfort when lives shatter with a crash.
These conditions prove no less problematic when an individual surrenders their license. In countries lacking a universal medical care system, those who go blind from lack of treatment often rely on friends and family for care. If they don’t have a support system, they can face severe economic hardship, even death, from vision loss.
There’s an overwhelming need for the Clearly campaign to restore sight worldwide. Chen and the International Society for the Prevention of Blindness deserve all the support they can get!
Ending Global Vision Crises Worldwide
Globally, millions of individuals struggle with preventable vision loss and impairment each year. The work of individuals like James Chen and the International Society for the Prevention of Blindness plays a vital role in addressing a clear need.