Eye Wear Consultant, Hon. Advisor India Vision Institute & Trustee Sure Trust (Skill Upgradation for Rural Youth Empowerment
The Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi has set us a goal of 5 trillion $ economy at an exchange rate prevailing in the year 2019, while the Covid has been a dampener pushing us back by few years to reach this big ambition.
The costs of poor eye health are compounded by the fact that there is a substantial loss due to reduction in economic productivity. The cost of poor eye health in India in 2019 is estimated at INR 1158 billion (Source: The Economic and Social Cost of Visual Impairment and Blindness in India by Seva Foundation) and the cost of poor eye health is expected to increase in the coming years.
In India, there is a strong critical need to address the uncorrected refractive errors of the population which are estimated to be 50% of the total population (650 million people approx.) thereby working towards the World Health Organisation (WHO) goal of reducing vision impairment. To achieve this objective, it is important to address the resources available today in the country.
We have a challenge at hand to address the shortage of manpower to reach out to the villages and towns of the country. This can be mitigated by equipping primary health care providers with training and in association/supervision from the eye care institutions, NGOs etc. Innovation though application-based technology will be playing a key role in refraction, tele optometry practices and this can be a boon to reach out to the rural segment of the population without compromising on the quality of eye screening while offering simple solutions like a pair of spectacles. This would lead to a strong socio-economic compounding effect as addressing basic better eyesight would enhance productivity. Needless but pertinent to mention here that reading glasses are a quick solution to help the ageing population to see the screens of the mobile device as their near vision deteriorates over the years.
Lot is being spoken about Road safety and eyesight plays a key enabler to reduce the number of avoidable accidents due to poor eyesight of the drivers in India. Impaired vision has serious outcome on road safety and poor vision is one of the leading causes of road accidents worldwide. It has therefore become more important and relevant to focus on eye health and thereby, significantly reduce the incidence of fatal accidents in our roads.
While addressing the solution for the uncorrected refractive error, it is pertinent to look at the current landscape. India needs to reduce the dependence on China for imports of lenses and spectacle frames as currently it is estimated that 90% of the imports are from China. Spectacles have been categorised as assistive products by WHO and are distinct from medical devices. They have been exempted from medical devices being a non-invasive device, thanks to the Government of India’s decision to make spectacles more easily accessible and affordable. It is time for Indian business houses and MNCs to invest further in India as an alternate destination to China to meet the domestic demand of the country coupled with the global requirements.
Having said that in order that the population across all sections are offered quality spectacles, there must be a mechanism under the control of the Government of India or industry constituted autonomous body to have quality standards set for spectacle frames and lenses in order that substandard products are not dumped into the country. Awareness, Accessibility and Affordability are the key components of eye health and lot can be achieved by us with a coordinated approach by all stake holders.
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