Global Panel Debate Raises the Economic, Developmental and Health Merits of Vision Care


OneSight and National Geographic hosted a global vision care panel. (L toR) K-T Overbey, OneSight; Matthew Boswell, Smart Focus; Max Maia, Methodist Hospital Boat, Amazon Mission; Peter Holland, International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB); Justin Cave, Advanced Center for Eyecare; and Dr. John Nkurikiye, Rwanda Ophthalmology Society.

WASHINGTON, D.C.— At a symposium hosted here recently by OneSight in conjunction with the National Geographic Society, an international panel of vision care experts reported on the successful outcomes and broad impact of vision care access on underserved communities. The panel declared that lack of vision care access continues to be a pervasive issue costing $230 billion in lost productivity globally. The discussion covered what lack of vision care access looks like around the world, including in the U.S.; the impact of clear sight on education and productivity and how it affects economic potential, especially for women since there is significantly higher sight loss among girls and women, and the technological innovations that are making it possible to reach remote areas, such as the Amazon and rural China.

Panelists included:
• K-T Overbey, president and executive director of OneSight
• Matthew Boswell, co-founder and COO of Smart Focus
• Max Maia, executive director of the Methodist Hospital Boat, Amazon Mission
• Peter Holland, chief executive of International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness
• Justin Cave, CEO of Advanced Center for Eyecare
• Dr. John Nkurikiye, chief consultant ophthalmologist and cornea specialist and president, Rwanda Ophthalmology Society

K-T Obervey, executive director of OneSight, welcomed attendees to the D.C. event.

The panel also examined the vital role partnerships play in implementing solutions and focused on the self-sustaining vision center model, which OneSight, a leading global vision care nonprofit, has employed to provide permanent access worldwide. The coalition of partners agreed that raising awareness of the issue and its importance requires a collected and concerted effort, as each country presents a unique set of circumstances.

OneSight’s Overbey stressed that solutions need to be approached from different perspectives, including looking at technological advancements to help provide access. She cited the utilization of Kaleidos, a mobile refractometer that rapidly measures both eyes at the same time and transfers results automatically to vision clinic software, enabling doctors to quickly and effectively give comprehensive eye exams anywhere—even in the remotest environments.

Pulitizer-winning, National Geographic photographer, Stephanie Sinclair, showcased a series of photos she took of OneSight missions. Here, 14-year-old Gilmale Rodrigues lost her only pair of glasses as she was getting water out of a well near her home. When word got out about OneSight’s mobile vision clinic along the Amazon, the whole family traveled for over an hour on a boat to receive free eye exams, prescription glasses and sunglasses.
A photograph exhibit allowed guests to visualize what closing the vision care gap looks like on the front lines through the lens of National Geographic and Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, Stephanie Sinclair. In her keynote speech, Sinclair chronicled an OneSight expedition through the Amazon. She talked about and illustrated some of her favorite patient stories, including the 73-year-old grandma who made all her family travel hours to get their vision checked at the Amazon boat vision center. Nearly all needed glasses.

A recap of the discussion, including photos and highlight videos, are posted here on the OneSight website.

OneSight, a leading global nonprofit organization, conducts one-week charitable clinics, serving those with acute need, and also operates long-term self-sustaining vision centers, delivering quality eye exams and glasses to underserved populations throughout the U.S. and communities around the world. Over the past 30 years, the organization has served 10 million patients in more than 50 countries.