According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 285 million people globally are visually impaired and nearly 40 million are blind. Alarmingly, 90% of these individuals reside in developing countries. While many of these cases—as much as 80%—can be prevented or cured, high costs and lack of availability of eye care services allow mild impairments to develop into irreversible blindness. CHMI profiled programs are tackling barriers to access in order to improve the delivery of quality eye care to the world’s poor.
Most programs in the CHMI database are overcoming the challenges facing eye care delivery through three primary modes: reducing the cost of care through higher volumes and cross-subsidization, improving the availability of care through mobile outreach, and earning a profit while serving the poor.
The Aravind Eye Care System is a leader in eye care delivery innovation, an organization founded by Dr. Venkataswamy in 1976. The praise-worthy India-based hospital chain is the largest supplier of eye care in the world, performing about 1,000 surgeries a day and restoring sight to 12 million people. Remarkably while the non-profit model earns enough revenue to be self-sustaining, approximately 70% of its patients receive care for free. A newer program, which has been modeled partially on Aravind’s success, is Mexico’s SalaUno, a for-profit enterprise that strives to reduce geographic, economic, and information barriers in order to end needless blindness. SalaUno achieves delivery of quality, affordable, and accessible care to the lowest income populations in Mexico. They utilize innovative cross-subsidization plans combined with government and local NGO support. For a more in-depth overview of eye care programs in the database, visit the Database at a Glance: How Innovators Deliver Quality Eye Care to the Poor.
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With an estimated 7.75 million individuals who are cataract blind cataracts account for around half of the cases of blindness in India. The mobile cataract surgery unit, developed by The Indian Institute of Technology-Madras and Sankara Nethralaya, can travel to remote areas to treat cataracts.