While it’s a challenge to recap our work this year, these five highlights really stand out for me. They’re not only our accomplishments, but accomplishments that were made through collaboration, and will serve as a springboard for our work in 2018.
1. Driver Safety Efforts Underway in India
In India, we continue to focus our efforts on driver safety and vision. A recent study shows that drivers in India with unacceptable vision were found to have an 81 percent road crash involvement rate – that’s 30 percent higher than drivers with good vision. Behind these numbers are people affected by poor vision and its consequences on the roads.
In February, I met with government officials and executives from private corporations to discuss why eye exams should be incorporated into the licensing requirements for commercial drivers. These discussions led us to develop a commercial driver training video, using VII-curated research, that has recently been endorsed by India’s Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MORTH). The video will be used in driver training centers across the country to educate commercial drivers on the importance of getting their eyes examined.
Also, at the World Congress of Optometry in Hyderabad, the VII endorsed a partnership between The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and Essilor, and their commitment to promoting the role of vision in road safety. We applaud this partnership for its efforts to promote vision as a key pillar of road safety on a global scale.
2. Kids See: Success Poised for Success in New Jersey
We’re proud to continue our work on Kids See: Success, a partnership program advocating for early intervention for children’s vision, currently working in the US state of New Jersey. With VSP and Optometry Giving Sight, our goal is to establish a new standard for children’s vision by requiring a comprehensive eye exam prior to entering kindergarten. In March, I had the opportunity to testify before the New Jersey Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Public Schools about the impact of poor access to vision care for students. The issue has been taken up again post elections in New Jersey, and we are making continued progress. We’re looking forward to helping ensure that all kindergartners in New Jersey start their academic career on a level playing field.
3. New Research Closes Global Gaps
Is there a benefit to dispensing ready-made spectacles to children in India? What’s the state of vision in Mexico? These are just two questions of many that we’ve been able to answer this year through our curated vision research database of over 260 studies. Research remains a key driver of our work and a crucial tool to drive advocacy and awareness. In fact, in India, in September, preliminary results of a VII-sponsored study by the Central Road Research Institute on drivers and vision served as the catalyst for significant media attention, and subsequent action from the government. It’s a great example of how research and awareness do, in fact, drive change.
4. French Website Allows for Expanded Reach
In August, we launched a French language version of our website to reach an even larger audience. With more than 220 million French speakers worldwide, there is a distinct need to reach these vision health influencers in their native language. This is especially true in Africa where French is the main language in more than 25 countries, where half of the world’s French-speaking population lives, and where access to vision care is much needed. The addition of a French language version of our website means our website is now available in five languages, including English, Spanish, Chinese, and Portuguese.
5. Media Partners and Vision Influencers Spread the Word
Our media partners continued to play an integral role in spreading the message of the importance of good vision to their audiences around the world. We’re thankful to The Hill, The Huffington Post, ET Healthworld, CBS, Times of India, and the Hindustan Times, to name a few. We’re also grateful for you, our more than 2,000 vision influencers, who follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter.
While the success of 2017 is encouraging, we know it’s only a glimmer of what’s to come. Our fight is not over, but we have the solution. Constant changes in our lifestyles, demographics, and health systems demand we continue to take action. It’s only through collaboration among individuals, organizations, communities, and more that we will make actionable change for our world. Together, let’s continue giving vision a voice in 2018.