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HomeminewsWorld Sight Day 2022: Expanding Access to Healthy Vision Starts Locally

World Sight Day 2022: Expanding Access to Healthy Vision Starts Locally

On World Sight Day, Rich Oliver, Country Franchise Head for Alcon Vision Care ANZ, discusses the challenges associated with expanding global access to the highest standards of eye care. He explains how Alcon is partnering and working with intent to fulfil its purpose: to help people see brilliantly.

Rich Oliver

World Sight Day provides an important opportunity for people to prioritise their eye health, a message Alcon strives to spread worldwide through our continued commitment to helping people see brilliantly.

Just like a fingerprint, every person’s eyes are unique. And throughout our lifetimes, our eyes go on their own unique journey, whether it be a child needing their first pair of corrective spectacles or an older person being cured of their once-debilitating cataracts. In Australia and New Zealand, we’re lucky to have a mature health care system, and comparatively good access to the latest innovations in eye care. Yet, as we reflect on eye care around the world, we know that is not the case for many millions of people.

The common thread is that this precious gift of sight is something that should never be taken for granted. Eyes and healthy vision are an important conduit through which we experience and contribute to the world around us. And they are also an important part of our overall health. Visual impairment impacts people’s wellbeing and lifestyle, and their ability to provide and care for their families and themselves. Globally, vision impairment and blindness result in an estimated $410.7 billion due to productivity loss, overall monthly earnings, and employment rates for people with impaired vision tend to be lower.

The stark truth is that our eyes are not always the first priority when it comes to our health. Not everyone has access to the resources and treatment they need to keep their eyes healthy over a lifetime. Globally, more than 1.1 billion people are living with uncorrected vision impairments, but 90% of global vision loss is also treatable or preventable. This reveals a clear directive: We must expand access to eye care and lifelong healthy vision by driving increased access in all corners of the world – and that starts locally.

World Sight Day – and the theme of #LoveYourEyes – offers an important opportunity for people to prioritise their eye health, and that of their communities. Because loving our eyes means helping to ensure that the precious gift of sight and healthy vision is accessible to all.

We must expand access to eye care and lifelong healthy vision by driving increased access in all corners of the world – and that starts locally

Demand for Community-driven Solutions

Ensuring local access to eye care is incredibly important, especially for Indigenous Australians who are six times more likely to experience blindless than other Australians with 94% of vision loss preventable or treatable.4 We clearly have to do more as the most common cause of blindness in Indigenous people is cataracts at 32%.4

Beyond our shores, 90% of people with vision impairment are individuals who live in low and middle-income countries.3 Vision impairment is also shown to have greater prevalence among people in remote areas, women, the elderly, people with other disabilities, and ethnic minorities.5 This is compounded by the fact that age-related eye conditions – such as cataracts or macular degeneration – are only set to increase as the global population ages.

Solutions to these global challenges must start locally, and we must deeply understand and address the nuances of delivering eye care in each community. To help, Alcon provides monetary, product and equipment donations and expertise to eligible non-profit partners to help ensure the continuity of eye care in local communities. Through the Alcon Foundation and Alcon Cares, donations totalled more than $15 million in 2021, and we used that money to support organisations such as the International Eye Foundation, which is strengthening eye systems in India through its Hospital Recovery program, and VisionSpring, which is providing affordable, quality eyeglasses to people worldwide.

But we don’t stop there. In 2021, Alcon supported 73 medical missions, providing more than 11,000 surgeries, and treating more than 40,000 patients worldwide. This includes the more than 750 medical missions we’ve completed over the last three years, helping deliver eye care to places that need it most.

Partnership Paves the Way

Our commitment to driving results at the local level has culminated in a bold commitment. By 2025, Alcon will work with our partners through philanthropic support and training programs to help improve vision for five million people afflicted with untreated cataracts in low- and middle-income countries, including one million considered cataract-blind.6

But we know no single organisation can solve global eye care challenges alone. Partnership is the cornerstone to making a real impact, for real people.

Together with our partners, we are expanding access to eye care globally to fulfill unmet needs where they exist. A priority is enhancing the skills of eye care teams in areas with the greatest need. As one example, through our partnership with Orbis International’s Flying Eye Hospital, we helped train more than 680 Eye Care Professionals (ECPs) who performed 3.6 million eye screenings and examinations, and 38,000 surgeries in 2021.

Continuing Eye Care Access Through ECP Education

Every community looks different. However, no matter where you are, building local eye care capabilities through training helps deliver sustained access to eye care.

We provide world-class training for ECPs at our Alcon Experience Centres, with 10 locations around the world. That training helps enhance eye care systems, increasing the overall capacity for eye-related procedures, including phacoemulsification (phaco) surgeries, the standard of care for cataract surgery. Our own team at Alcon Australia and New Zealand are actively involved in supporting ongoing medical education, with many of our associates having deep experience in the eye care industry.

For instance, through the Alcon Phaco Development (PD) program, we’ve empowered more surgeons to provide sustainable access to phaco procedures. Since the program’s inception in 2008, more than 5,000 surgeons around the world have been trained and gone on to perform more than seven million sight-enhancing or restoring phaco procedures for patients.

Alcon’s purpose is to help people see brilliantly, no matter who they are or where they live. This World Sight Day, we encourage everyone to remember the precious gift that is sight. Take ownership of your eyes and help others in your community to do the same by making sure you and your loved ones get regular eye exams.

 

Rich Oliver is Country Franchise Head for Alcon Vision Care ANZ. He is passionate about health and health outcomes for Aussies and Kiwis. He brings many years of commercial consumer health experience having worked for GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare for 12 years, in leadership roles in the UK and Australia.

Mr Oliver has also had senior roles at Integria Healthcare, and Alcon before his appointment as Country Franchise Head, Vision Care ANZ, in April 2020. He has led Alcon’s Vision Care business with a passion to help more Aussies and Kiwis see brilliantly, through driving the innovation agenda across contact lenses and dry eye and championing an enhanced Alcon customer experience with HCPs.