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What do watermills, gunpowder, the wheelbarrow and eyeglasses all have in common?
They were all invented around the same time: 700 years ago. Today, we take all these brilliant inventions for granted but amongst them, one is yet to fulfil its potential to positively impact human society.
While access to glasses are taken for granted by people in the higher income economies, it is not accessible to most people in lower income areas, despite being an invention that has the potential to not only solve an ever-growing health crisis, but impact so many other aspects of individuals’ lives.
You may also be surprised to learn that uncorrected poor vision is a rapidly growing challenge for the world. Research from the World Health Organization has found over half of the world – and two-thirds of the world’s most populous country, China – may be short sighted by 2050, including 500 million school children globally who will suffer from myopia, short-sightedness.
Current figures already stand at 300 million and a mixture of increased screen time, lack of time outdoors and a reliance on technology is continuing to damage our eyes faster than we can keep up with.
Good and reliable vision is fundamental to all walks of life. Poor vision is not something which just impacts the health agenda. Goal Four of the Sustainable Development Goals, for example, is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. It is a central part to the success of the Sustainable Development Goals and cannot be achieved if over half the population is suffering from a lack of holistic vision correction.
Furthermore, a 2018 study commissioned by Clearly highlighted the dramatic productivity loss from poor vision. Along with reduced productivity, workers can lose jobs altogether and a loss of earnings no doubt has a devastating impact on their families. From a wider perspective, the combined effects of millions of children not reaching their potential, or workers not being able to work at peak productivity, will impact national development and economic growth.
Earlier this year, the entire Eye Sector celebrated the adoption of UN General Assembly Resolution A/75/L.108, “Vision for Everyone: accelerating action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”, a huge turning point in addressing this forgotten issue. However, this does not mean the battle is won. We need everyone to play their part and ensure they are continuing to protect their eyesight and accessing the eye-care available to them.
Sight is important, essential to safe and prosperous lives, and the good news is the solution is already at hand. For 700 years we have had the luxury of being able to access vision and, in the lead-up to this World Sight Day, I am encouraging you to take that opportunity. Arrange a sight test for yourself or a loved one today, better yet, show your support for everyone, everywhere to have access to vision correction and play your part in ensuring that everyone can see the world clearly.
Photo credit: Shrikant Ayyangar, Mission for Vision, for the WSD Photo competition