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Leading Eye Health Organisations Chart Course for Safer Roads and a Clear Vision India

India Vision Institute, Mission for Vision, Sightsavers India and VisionSpring Co-Host the 3 rd Annual Vision and Road Safety (VARS 3.0) Conference

Chennai, Friday, January 19, 2024: Today, four leading Indian eye health non-profit organisations hosted the 3rd Vision and Road Safety (VARS) Conference at the IIT Madras Research Park, in Chennai.

India Vision Institute, Mission for Vision, Sightsavers India and VisionSpring came together to raise awareness about the need to integrate vision screening and eyeglasses into the global and national agendas for road safety. With as much as 59% of crashes linked to poor vision, an easy way to reduce the risk of death and injury is to ensure that drivers with vision impairments have eyeglasses so that they can see clearly.

The conference coincided with the National Road Safety Week commemorated every year to raise awareness on road safety issues. More than 100 leaders from eye health and road safety sectors deliberated the issues and ways to scale up access to vision correction for drivers and allied transportation workers to reduce the risk of vehicular crashes and associated injuries and deaths.

The VARS 3.0 Conference builds on the past two years’ convening. Through their efforts to-date, the four have screened the vision of 16.46 lakh (1.64 million) commercial vehicle drivers, helpers, cleaners,

mechanics, and other transport workers in India. The key to each programme’s success has been making sight tests convenient by bringing them to transportation hubs, ports, break-bulk centres, and rest areas.

Program participants discussed the importance of prioritising road safety as a public health issue by building vision screenings into the National Road Safety Plan and the unique challenges of providing eye health services to this floating population in a sustainable manner.

The conference commenced with a lamp-lighting ceremony led by the Chief Guest, Kamran Khan, Senior Director, Trade & Investment, South Asia, Australia, who delivered a special address and set the tone for the day. The conference was chaired by a steering committee comprising Anshu Taneja (Managing Director and Trustee, VisionSpring, India), Elizabeth Kurian (CEO, Mission for Vision), RN Mohanty (CEO, Sightsavers India), and Vinod Daniel (CEO, India Vision Institute) Discussions focused on the transformative role of technology, specifically Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and connected vehicles, in revolutionising road safety. The conference emphasised a multi-disciplinary approach, stressing collaborative efforts among engineers, designers, policymakers, and health professionals to formulate holistic safety measures. Essential components included targeted education and awareness campaigns for vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists.

Speakers underscored the role of continuous monitoring and evaluation of road safety initiatives for effectiveness and improvement. Attendees advocated for collaboration between governments and

organizations for the development and implementation of effective policies and regulations. They also emphasized the importance of identifying contributing factors and exploring comprehensive solutions.

Mr. Anshu Taneja, Managing Director, India, VisionSpring, Ms. Elizabeth Kurian, CEO, Mission for Vision, Mr. R. N. Mohanty, CEO, Sightsavers India, and Mr. Vinod Daniel, CEO, India Vision Institute, announced their joint “commitment to sustain this initiative by screening an additional 1 million commercial driving communities by 2026.” In their statement, the four industry leaders also agreed to “collaborate with government, corporates, civil society organisations, and foundations to scale this initiative across the length and breadth of Indian roads in order to reduce vision-induced road accidents.” They added, “theinitiative will strengthen India’s vision towards Universal Eye Health  Coverage.”

Participants in the conference included, among others, Dr. BR Shamanna, Professor, School of Medical Sciences, University of Hyderabad, Dr. Geetakrishnan Ramadurai, Professor, Transportation Engineering Division, IIT Madras, Ms. Rashima Asokan, Professor, Elite School of Optometry, Mr. Rahul Goel, Assistant Professor, TRIPP, IIT Delhi, Ms. Pooja Bajaj, Founder and CEO, SADAK, Mr. Krishnan Srinivasan, Senior Transport Consultant, World Bank GRSF, Ms. Eva Lazuka Nicoulaud, ​​Head of Advocacy and Partnerships for Europe and Africa, OneSight EssilorLuxottica Foundation, Ms. Geetha Anand, Principal Project Officer, CoERS, IIT Madras, and Ms. Bhanu Suresh, Project Director-Concern, RSafe India.

For more information, please contact:

Rupali Rai, Senior Manager, Marketing, VisionSpring, India at 9650070551

Sakshi, Sightsavers India, 7017437458

Shekhar Nambiar, General Manager, Public Affairs & Communications, India Vision Institute at 9810154167

Shrikant Ayyangar, Lead, Communications, Mission for Vision, India at 9819258828

About IVI: India Vision Institute (IVI) is an independent, not-for-profit registered trust (with section 12A, 80G and FCRA of IT Act clearances). Established in 2012, our activities and programs across India's far corners have helped over one million Indians access free vision screenings and a pair of corrective glasses. IVI has been working to augment the primary eye capacity of India through vision screening underprivileged communities, adults, children and commercial vehicle drivers, build human resource capacity and support Indian Optometry. For prevention of avoidable blindness, our optometrists work to provide timely intervention in disadvantaged communities and remote areas, through our programs Eye See & I Learn for children and Eye See & I Work for adults. These are helping children do well in school and better their future prospects, and adults improve their work productivity, leading to economic growth and prosperity. To advance Indian Optometry, we work in awareness generation, capacity building, leadership development and promoting the research culture.

About Mission for Vision: Mission for Vision (MFV) is a not-for-profit organisation established in the year 2000 to eradicate avoidable blindness through the enablement of high-quality, comprehensive and equitable eye care. It was founded on the basis that poverty is a cause and effect of visual and other disabilities that in turn increase the social divide. Eradicating avoidable blindness will enhance productivity, significantly impact GDP and promote social and economic equity among nations. Today, MFV works in 24 Indian states and union territories with leading eye health partners. MFV and its partners have enabled interventions to 19.19+ million people and 2.97+ million eye surgeries, at no cost to the patient. MFV has also contributed towards the establishment of 20 leading charitable eye centres and 145+ Vision Centres (VCs) in India. During 2022-23, MFV along with its partners has enabled the eye screening of 1,213,886 people and over 284,126 free/subsidised surgeries. Mission for Vision’s work is intended to assist governmental efforts towards human development.

Vision: To restore the gift of vision to every visually impaired human being, irrespective of nationality, religion or socio-economic status.

www.missionforvision.org.in

About Sightsavers India: Sightsavers India is a development organisation that has been working in India since 1966 to eliminate avoidable blindness and promote equality of opportunity for people with disability. Our work has enabled thousands of people to lead lives of independence and dignity. Sightsavers India focuses on collaborating with various departments of the state governments to scale up operations for eye health, inclusive education and social inclusion – our three core areas of work. One of India's most extensive eye health programmes, RAAHI, focuses on ensuring road safety by providing eye care services to the truckers’ community. The programme is spread across 54 locations across the Golden Quadrilateral and North South-East West (NSEW) network. The Programme is designed so that eye care services reach overworked truck drivers and commercial drivers at their convenience. We have permanent vision centres and pop-up outreach camps in locations where drivers stop as part of their usual route to rest or unload cargo. The use of a fully equipped mobile ophthalmology van under the programme makes eye health more accessible for the commercial driving community. www.sightsaversindia.org

About VisionSpring:  VisionSpring (www.visionspring.org) is a pioneering social organisation creating access to eyeglasses for low-income adults and children. Annually in India, VisionSpring supports vision screening for more than 27 lakh (2.7 million) people and corrects the vision of more than 10 lakh (1 million) people with eyeglasses. On average, 73% of VisionSpring’s participants acquire their first-ever pair of eyeglasses through the See to Earn, See to Learn, and See to be Safe programmes. To date, VisionSpring has distributed more than 65 lakh (6.5 million) pairs of corrective eyeglasses in India, creating more than Rs. 10,665 Crore ($1.3 billion) in economic impact for low-income households. The organization delivers on its eye health mission across 23 states, working with more than 500 hospitals/healthcare facilities and NGOs, 15 state governments and agencies, and 50 corporations/CSRs. VisionSpring has also responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with personal protective equipment, oxygen concentrators, and vaccination access and awareness. VisionSpring’s work has been covered in The New York Times | The Economist | Forbes | The Lancet | The Economic

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