This month in New York, the High-Level Political Forum, convened by the Economic and Social Council, takes place over a ten-day period. More than 2,000 participants including ministers, business and civil society leaders will rally to review progress on six of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I was struck by the fact that prioritizing vision care has the power to significantly influence three of the six SDGs under review: Goals 4 (Quality Education), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), and 10 (Reducing Inequalities).
Research undoubtedly shows a connection between good vision and a person’s ability to learn. While SDG Goal 4 focuses more on providing quality education to all people, how plausible is learning without first ensuring that those being educated can see clearly? If we were to first address the problem of uncorrected vision and the looming myopia epidemic, the topic of quality education would have a strong foundation on which to stand.
School-Based Health Alliance annual convention in Washington D.C with other like-minded organizations including OneSight, the Advanced Center for Eyecare and Social Impact Consulting, who’s work led to the development of the first school-based vision center in the US at the Oyler School in Ohio. Our audience of school nurses, administrators, and school clinic personnel eagerly engaged in dialogue around the best ways to change the landscape of vision care for kids by including vision as part of whole-child wellness. By prioritizing the need for vision health in school health programs around the world, we will greatly affect the standard of quality education.
Looking further into Goal 8, research also draws a strong correlation between a person’s visual health and the ability to be productive at work. A recently published study suggests that lost productivity attributed to myopia in 2015 was $244 billion. Yet the very same study shows that the global cost to treat this problem is significantly lower than the cost incurred if we do nothing to intervene. Additional global research proves a significant increase in productivity when correction of near vision occurs. Can we achieve economic growth if the global workforce has poor vision that affects their productivity and longevity in the workplace? By globally prioritizing healthy vision as part of overall healthcare, we can positively influence productivity in the workplace as a factor of economic growth.
Finally, Goal 10 focuses on reducing inequalities for developing countries, mostly in terms of income inequities. If we know that 90% of the world’s vision impaired people live in low-income settings, and that 2.5 billion people around the world who need vision correction remain uncorrected, we must consider that awareness and access to vision care could play a unique role in balancing these inequities.
The good news is that a solution to poor vision already exists: eyeglasses. Perhaps even better is that affordable solutions for all economic groups already exist to truly change the way the world sees, learns, works and profits.
Since learning and worker productivity both rely heavily on a person’s ability to see well, prioritizing vision care as part of a global response to health care today will undoubtedly lead to a stronger economy tomorrow.
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