Poor Vision Put in Focus for the Developing World

Poor Vision Put in Focus for the Developing World

Glasses are one key to improving the economic productivity of poor people in developing countries. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/deepchi/3515292325/">deepchi1 (flickr)</a>
Glasses are one key to improving the economic productivity of poor people in developing countries. Photo: deepchi1 (flickr)

Poor vision may not seem like an economic problem at first glance. But according to the World Health Organization, workers with poor and uncorrected vision cost the global economy hundreds of billions of dollars in lost productivity each year.

Many of these workers struggle to put food on the table, much less purchase an expensive pair of glasses, so their vision problems go untreated. This situation may change thanks to an innovative new series of affordable glasses designs that the New York Times recently highlighted. Their genius lies in two factors: their low cost and how easy it is to adjust them. Production is cheaper when a single model can be made to fit almost anyone, which also cuts out the need for expensive doctors to write vision prescriptions.

How can glasses be one-size-fits-all? One type highlighted by The Times has lenses whose refraction can be adjusted by injecting a clear liquid into them, while another has overlapping lenses that can be adjusted by the user. These models are already improving the lives of wearers in countries like Rwanda, Afghanistan, Ghana, and Tanzania and cost $19 and $4, respectively.

Despite their potential, low-cost eyeglasses still face problems. As The New York Times explains, the glasses could cost only $1-2 per pair if produced in great enough volumes, but supply chains don't yet exist to distribute such quantities of glasses to those who need them.

The field of low-cost eyeglass production and distribution is in its infancy, but keep your eyes open for great things to come.

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