Reading Glasses for Improved Livelihoods (RGIL) programme funded by VisionSpring in
partnership with BRAC Health, Nutrition and Population Programme (HNPP), is celebrating
its milestone achievement of correcting the vision of 2 million people.
VisionSpring and BRAC will be honouring the Community Health Workers (CHWs), key staff,
and delivery partners at an exclusive celebration taking place at the BRAC Centre in Dhaka,
Bangladesh, on 23 January.
Honourable guest speakers include Prof. Dr. Golam Mostafa, Director of the National
Institute of Ophthalmology (NIO) and Line Director of National Eye Care (NEC); Prof. Dr.
AHM Enayet Hussain, Vice-Chancellor of Sylhet Medical University and Country Chair of the
IAPB Bangladesh Chapter; and Dr. Upenthyo George, Consultant (Public Health) at the
Ministry of Health of Uganda. Jordan Kassalow, Founder of VisionSpring, and Ahmed
Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury, Former Vice Chair of BRAC, will also speak in the event on
RGIL's journey so far. In addition, the event will be attended by Ella Gudwin, CEO of
VisionSpring, Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC, Shameran Abed, Executive Director of
BRAC International, Misha Mahjabeen, Country Director of VisionSpring Bangladesh.
Established in 2006, the RGIL programme pioneered the training of Community Health
Workers (CHWs) of BRAC to provide basic eye care services to their communities. The
programme was grounded in the premise that reading glasses are one of the most
underutilised, low-cost, high-impact tools available to boost economic and social outcomes
for low-income individuals and their households. Through funding from Cartier, Warby
Parker and National Vision, the programme has successfully scaled nationally in Bangladesh
and replicated in Uganda and Zambia with the networks of CHWs, programme staff and
organisational partners (BRAC as well as United Purpose and CARE).
The program trains Community Health Workers to identify the most common cause of
blurry vision (presbyopia), allowing them to earn a living by distributing reading glasses, and
eventually refer more people into the health system for higher-level eye care, preserving
the capacity of a limited number of optometrists and ophthalmologists for more complexeye conditions.
When the programme started, the idea that age-related blurry vision could be treated
outside of the doctor’s office, by CHWs, was controversial. Today, tens of thousands of
CHWs have screened the vision of 10 million people and disbursed more than 2 million
reading glasses across 3 countries, conducting basic vision tests, and referring customers to
specialists for higher-level services. The approach has been replicated by other NGOs and
national governments, and late last year the World Health Organisation (WHO)
incorporated the RGIL methodology into their online Training in Assistive Products module.
Ella Gudwin, CEO of VisionSpring, commented, “Sixteen years ago we took a leap of faith to
launch a disruptive programme aimed at de-medicalizing the delivery of reading glasses,
with a view to opening up access to near-vision correction for millions. We’re proud of the
longstanding partnerships that made this milestone possible and to have established the
precedent to bring this programme to millions more. We are excited to join hands with
others who are ready to solve this problem at scale!”
Dr. Morseda Chowdhury, Director, BRAC Health Nutrition and Population Programme
(HNPP) said, “This is a perfect example of an effective public health intervention scalable in
a low-resource setting. A multi-tasking CHW can be utilised to tackle a stubborn problem
that impedes the quality of life as well as reduces productivity and thus economic potential
of a country. The Bangladesh Government has already achieved many milestones for overall
health status of the population, however, to reach the SDG target of universal health
coverage, we must work together to take this solution to the last mile.”
Anupam Sengupta, VisionSpring: email@example.com
Melissa Bromley, VisionSpring: firstname.lastname@example.org
Founded in 2001, VisionSpring is the social enterprise accelerating the use of eyeglasses in
emerging and frontier markets. Our mission is to increase lifelong earning, learning, safety
and well-being through eyeglasses for people vulnerable to poverty. We believe in the
wonder of clear vision for everyone, and envision a world in which all who need glasses will
have them to see well and do well by 2050. As of 2021, VisionSpring corrected the vision of
8.7 million people living on less than $4 per-day, unlocking $1.8 billion in income earning
potential. VisionSpring has been recognised for its innovative work, receiving the Skoll
Award for Social Entrepreneurship; social entrepreneur fellowships from Draper Richards
Kaplan, the Aspen Institute, and the Schwab Foundation; and honors from World Bank,
Duke University, Fast Company, and Tribeca Film Festival, among others.
BRAC is an international development organisation founded in Bangladesh in 1972 that
partners with over 100 million people living with inequality and poverty to create
opportunities to realise human potential. BRAC is known for its community-led, holistic
approach and delivering long-term impact at scale. BRAC works with communities in
marginalised situations, hard-to-reach areas and post-disaster settings across Asia and
Africa, with a particular focus on women and children. BRAC operates as a solutions
ecosystem, including social development programmes, social enterprises, humanitarian
response, a bank and a university. It is born and proven in the south, has become a world
leader in developing and implementing cost-effective, evidence-based programmes, and
has been recognised as the number one development organisation in the world for
multiple consecutive years by Geneva-based independent media organisation, NGO
Advisor. BRAC’s flagship programme, the Graduation Approach, has been adapted by
governments and organisations in over 50 countries as a pathway out of ultra poverty.
BRAC’s early childhood development programmes BRAC Play Lab and BRAC Humanitarian
Play Lab, which use the power of play to learn, and to learn and heal, consecutively, are
also being scaled up internationally.