Lions Clubs Research Grants Aim to Improve Global Quality of Life

Communications Officer
Organisation: IAPB

Six hundred KwaZulu-Natal textile factory workers will have an opportunity to have their vision examined at their workplaces, through a 12-month research study program funded by Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF).

The African Vision Research Institute (AVRI, UKZN), and the Brien Holden Vision Institute will implement the research program which aims to measure the implications of correcting ageing near sight (presbyopia) with regard to productivity and vision related Quality of Life assessments.

As we age, the lens inside our eye becomes less flexible and its ability to change shape is reduced. This inevitable loss of flexibility is called presbyopia and causes near vision to be blurred. This happens progressively to everyone over 40 years old.

An estimated 1.04 billion people had presbyopia in 2005. Of these, 517 million had either no spectacles or inadequate spectacles causing significant near vision impairment (mostly people living in developing communities). With the world’s population ageing rapidly, the global prevalence of presbyopia is predicted to increase to 1.4 billion by 2020 and to 1.8 billion by 2050.

Vision screening, Brien Holden Vision Institute

Image courtesy: Brien Holden Vision Institute

Professor Kovin Naidoo, the CEO of AVRI and acting CEO of the Brien Holden Vision Institute and the Principal Investigator for the research program, spoke on the relevance of the study.  “Uncorrected vision impairment is a major public health issue. The prevalence of both myopia (short-sightedness) and presbyopia (inability to focus on close objects) are increasing dramatically worldwide. Our ability to address this challenge is going to be influenced by the evidence we produce about the value of correcting near vision. Work Productivity Studies provide a good indicator of the economic value for employers to invest in correcting their staff’s vision.”

“Advocacy is key to expanding services both by governments and the business sector. It is hoped that the data from this study will influence policies that are pro poor and thus increases access to vision correction.”, Professor Naidoo said.

The research program funded by LCIF also aims to develop eye health promotion material that will be distributed nationwide to benefit approximately 100,000 South African factory workers. Materials of this nature can help change eye health perceptions and eye health seeking behaviour of factory workers, thus increasing public awareness.

Prof Naidoo is also involved in a second study that received agrant from the Lions Clubs International Foundation to be conducted in Bogota, Colombia in Latin America. The aim is to collect accurate and relevant data about uncorrected refractive error and spectacle uptake in order to plan and implement appropriate eye care initiatives that will reduce the burden of avoidable vision impairment.

The key research findings from all these programs will be published and made available to eye health professionals through seminars and professional meetings, posters and presentations at local, regional and international conferences to highlight the economic and psychosocial benefits of near vision spectacle correction in the workplace.

Joel Preston, Chairperson of the Lions Clubs International Foundation said, “This research will further the LCIF SightFirst program by identifying needs and assessing program strategies related to equity, capacity building and sustainability in the delivery of eye care in South Africa and Colombia.”