According to the global initiative, almost 2.5 billion people cannot see clearly, because they have no access to eye care. This has a profound knock-on effect on their productivity.
James Chen, the founder of Clearly, has written to CEOs leading some of the world’s largest corporations – which together employ over 20 million people directly and indirectly through their supply chains – to take steps to end existing problems affecting myopia and presbyopia sufferers in their workforce.
Invented 700 years ago
There is a simple, economical solution: eyeglasses.
Chen began his appeal to the business sector in a letter on World Sight Day in October last year, in which he highlighted a study that found the productivity benefits of providing glasses – which cost as little as $1.50 to make – are equal to an extra day of work each week.
The PROSPER (PROductivity Study of Presbyopia Elimination in Rural dwellers) study – sponsored by Clearly and published in The Lancet Global Health – found that providing glasses results in the largest increase in productivity ever recorded from any health intervention.
Research demonstrated that companies operating in low-to-middle income countries could expect an improvement in worker productivity by 21.7% – and by 31.6% for those aged over 50 – as well as an improvement to their wellbeing and quality of life.
Poor response from the private sector
However, Chen noted that, while a number of companies are now implementing work-based sight tests following his letter in October, the response was still disappointing.
“With poor vision still the largest unaddressed disability in the world, the provision of quality eye care to workers as standard could make the single largest difference in workplace inclusivity and productivity,” he said.
“This is a global scandal with a simple, affordable, existing solution.
“The time has come for businesses to take action and help everyone see clearly, everywhere,” he added.
Governments, health experts and public back Chen’s appeal
According to Chen, governments are taking up the challenge. The World Health Organisation is expected to publish its ‘World Report on Vision’ in May; the UN convened a ‘Friends of Vision’ Group which met for the first time in October, and the Commonwealth Heads of Government have pledged progress towards ‘quality eye care for all’.
Also, a petition by Global Citizen and Clearly has, to date, attracted over 40,000 signatures from over 137 countries backing up Chen’s appeal to some of the world’s largest employers to make sight tests available to employees as a standard practice.
Clearly is a global campaign working launched in 2016 to get a pair of glasses to everyone who needs them by raising the profile of the issue around the globe and connecting the people committed to tackling this issue.
In 2016, the campaign awarded $250,000 in funding to accelerate innovations and ventures that tackle poor vision, ranging from smart phone apps and open-source eye-screening tools to emergency and last-mile transport.
In March, Clearly will be hosting ‘Sightgeist’ at the Science Museum in London, which will be attended by business leaders, diplomats, scientists, technologists, campaigners and eye care professionals.
The keynote speaker is Prof Brian Cox, OBE FRS, who will talk about the positive impact of tackling this global problem.
PepsiCo, Kraft Heinz, Pret a Manger and Cargill did not respond to BakeryandSnacks’ request for comment before going to print.
Authors: Priya Adhisesha Reddy, Prof Nathan Congdon, Graeme MacKenzie, et al.
The Lancet, Volume 6, Issue 9, published July 23, 2018