Globally, at least 2.2 billion people have a near or distance vision impairment. In at least 1 billion—or almost half—of these cases, vision impairment could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Among this 1 billion people, the main conditions causing distance vision impairment or blindness are cataract (94 million), refractive error (88.4 million), age-related macular degeneration (8 million), glaucoma (7.7 million), diabetic retinopathy (3.9 million) (1). The main condition causing near vision impairment is presbyopia (826 million) (2).

In terms of regional differences, the prevalence of distance vision impairment in low- and middle-income regions is estimated to be 4 times higher than in high-income regions (1). With regards to near vision, rates of unaddressed near vision impairment are estimated to be greater than 80% in western, eastern and central sub-Saharan Africa, while comparative rates in high-income regions of North America, Australasia, western Europe, and of Asia-Pacific are reported to be lower than 10% (2).

This past summer OneSight EssilorLuxottica Foundation a long-time partner of The Fresh Air Fund, provided free eye exams and glasses to their campers.

Since its founding in 1877, The Fresh Air Fund, a not-for-profit youth development organization, has provided free life-changing summer experiences in the outdoors to more than 1.8 million children from New York City’s underserved communities.

Feeling a mix of excitement and nervousness, campers waited their turn to look through the ophthalmoscope. Those who needed glasses got to try on different frames and had a blast testing new styles. By the end of the summer, nearly 600 campers received a new pair of glasses. 

Although you might think some children would be reluctant to be prescribed glasses, most of them are delighted. They’ve been missing out on the world around them for too long.

Learn how you can help support children explore nature at: www.freshair.org

How Onesight serves vulnerable communities

Global Eye Care OneSight Clinic teams travel to developing countries to hand-deliver free vision care and eyewear to those in need.

Regional Eye Care OneSight volunteers provide free vision care and eyewear to those in need in their regions through organized Clinics and Vision Van programs.

Community Eye Care: OneSight helps those in need in their local communities through in-store and outreach programs.

Preventative Eye Care: OneSight funds research to address eye health issues throughout the world and invests in the next generation of optometric professionals through scholarships and education.

For more details on clinic locations and volunteering with OneSight visit: www.onesight.org

Download WHO’s Report of the 2030 targets on effective coverage of eye care.

To draw attention to blindness and vision impairment worldwide, every year on the second Thursday of October, World Sight Day is observed. For the 2023 celebration, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched “WHOeyes”, a free app for the general public to check how well they can see things close up and at a distance and learn how they can protect their eyes.

The app checks visual acuity—a measure of how well the eye can distinguish shapes and details at a given distance and is the most common assessment of visual function. It is a simple, non-invasive measure, which is critical to determine if someone has a vision impairment. Many people with vision loss are unaware of it. Regular vision checks can ensure that vision impairment is identified as early as possible, and that action can be taken to preserve eyesight.

Available in all 6 UN languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish), the WHOeyes app can be downloaded for free both on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

References

1. GBD 2019 Blindness and Vision Impairment Collaborators; Vision Loss Expert Group of the Global Burden of Disease Study. Causes of blindness and vision impairment in 2020 and trends over 30 years, and prevalence of avoidable blindness in relation to VISION 2020: the Right to Sight: an analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study. Lancet Glob Health. 2021 Feb;9(2):e144-e160. doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(20)30489-7.

2. Fricke, TR, Tahhan N, Resnikoff S, Papas E, Burnett A, Suit MH, Naduvilath T, Naidoo K, Global Prevalence of Presbyopia and Vision Impairment from Uncorrected Presbyopia: Systematic Review, Meta-analysis, and Modelling, Ophthalmology. 2018 May 9.

3. Burton MJ, Ramke J, Marques AP, Bourne RR, Congdon N, Jones I, et al. The Lancet Global Health commission on Global Eye Health: vision beyond 2020. Lancet Glob Health. 2021; 9(4):e489–e551.

Inga Yandell
Explorer and media producer, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide resources and opportunities for creative exploration.