VisionSpring and BRAC Celebrate Correcting the Vision of 2 million People via Reading Glasses

Published : 23 Jan 2023 03:40 PM

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.”

Media Contacts

Anupam Sengupta, VisionSpring:

Melissa Bromley, VisionSpring:

About VisionSpring

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.

About BRAC

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.