Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Call by Leading Eye Health Organisations for Inclusion of Vision Screenings in the National Road Safety Plan

VisionSpring, Sightsavers India, India Vision Institute, and Mission for Vision Co-Hosted the2nd Annual Vision and Road Safety (VARS 2.0) Conference

New Delhi, India: VisionSpring, India Vision Institute, Sightsavers India, and Mission for Vision hosted the 2ndannual Vision and Road Safety (VARS 2.0) Conference to raise awareness about the need to integrate vision screening and eyeglasses into the global and national agendasfor road safety. 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 in order to reduce the risk of vehicular crashes and associated injuries and deaths…

The VARS 2.0 conference builds upon last year’s first-ever Vision and Road Safety (VARS) convening.Through their combined efforts to date, the co-hosts have screened the vision of 13.55 lakh (1.35 million) commercial vehicle drivers, helpers, cleaners, mechanics and other transport workers in India. The participants discussed ways to build 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.

In July 2022, UN General Assembly adopted the 2020 resolution for ‘Improving global road safety’ proclaiming the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030, with the ambitious target of preventing at least 50% of road traffic deaths and injuries by 2030. Helping drivers with clear vision through eyeglasses would accelerate the achievement of the UN resolution’s objectives.

Poor eyesight is a key contributor to road accidents in the world. India’s nearly 1.5 lacs road deaths annually account for 11% of the total global deaths caused by road accidents. Numerous vision initiatives with commercial driving communities revealsubstantial levels of uncorrected blurry vision –both distance vision required to judge oncoming traffic and avoid hazards on the road as well as near vision to see navigation apps – among truck, bus, automobile drivers. With the increase in road networks and freight activities in the country, road accidents and deaths are also rising. Given the situation and the fact that 90% of driving decisions are made from vision,there is an urgent need to include vision correction in the package of preventative measures such as seat belts, reducing speed, road and intersection design, overloading and defensive driving.

The conference was attended by key government stakeholders from Health and Transport, NITI Aayog, public health experts, industry partners, vision science researchers, health and transport stakeholders, and Corporate Social Responsibility leaders.

VARS 2.0 Conference deliberated upon the importance of vision in road safety, looked into the current preventive health initiatives taken within road safety measures, the scope of partnerships and resources required to address this important public health issue.

Mr. R. N. Mohanty, CEO, Sightsavers India, Mr. Anshu Taneja, Managing Director, India, VisionSpring, Mr. Vinod Daniel, CEO, India Vision Institute, and Ms.Elizabeth Kurian, CEO, Mission for Vision,have placed their “commitment to sustain this initiative by screening an additional 1 million commercial driving communities by 2025. The four organisations in their joint statement also agreed to collaborate with government, corporates, civil society organizations, corporate and philanthropic foundations to scale this initiative across the length and breadth of the Indian roads, to contribute to the reduction of vision induced road accidents. This initiative will strengthen India’s vision towards Universal Eye Health Coverage by reaching out to this floating population and its commitment to increase the effective refractive error coverage.”

Speaking on the occasion, Ms.Ella Gudwin, CEO, VisionSpring, said, “To achieve SDG 3.6 and the objectives of the recent UN resolution, we must integrate vision screenings and eyeglasses into the global and national agendasfor road safety. Our collective goal in India is to increase the rate of eyeglasses use among drivers who need vision correction to at least 70%.”

Mr. R. N. Mohanty, CEO, Sightsavers India pointed out that “Clear vision is critical in ensuring road safety. Our Programme – RAAHI – seeks to make eye health accessible to overworked truck drivers. It is wonderful to collaborate with VisionSpring, Mission for Vision and India Vision Institute to deliberate and find solutions towards making our roads safer and eye health accessible.”

IVI’s CEOMr.Vinod Daniel said,“We have found that of commercial vehicle drivers and allied staff screened, half of those requiring spectacles were first-time wearers, 24% had trouble seeing distant objects, and over 2% had refractive errors over 2D, thus severely compromising their distance vision.”

Ms. Elizabeth Kurian, CEO, Mission for Visionsaid, “Mission for Vision’s research amongst truckers shows that 45.8% had a refractive error, among whom 39.1% required correction for both, near and distance vision, in at least one eye. We are committed to promoting behavior change and affirmative action towards this.”

Dr. Anil Kumar, Additional Director General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India, said “It has been established by traffic safety research groups that uncorrected vision issues are common among drivers,regular eye testing for vision prevents road accidents and should be included for road safety and driver’s well-being.”

Mr. Piyush Tewari, Founder and CEO, SaveLIFE Foundation, said “Vision plays a crucial role in avoiding crashes and ensuring road safety. Optimal visual health is crucial for drivers to be able to keep track of the various road signs, road furniture and infrastructure, and quickly navigate sudden movements by other road users. For commercial drivers, a vision test must be mandated every year and should be made available free of charge along various highways along with the provision of low-cost prescription glasses. For commuting drivers, it is recommended that a competent vision test be conducted at the time of issuance and renewal of the driving license. Police must also include vision testing as part of their crash investigation process.” 

The conference also saw the participation of Mr. Shaleen Mitra, Secretary to the Minister of Urban Development and Health, Government of Delhi, Ms. Urvashi Prasad, Director, Office of Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog, Pankaj Ballabh, Director, Centre for Social Impact and Philanthropy, Ashoka University, Dr. Praveen Vashist, Office-In-Charge and Head of Community Ophthalmology, Dr. R. P. Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, Dr. Promila Gupta, Former Director General of Health Services (DGHS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India, Rajni Gandhi, Founder and Secretary, TRAX Road Safety NGO, Mr. Rama Shankar Pandey, CEO, Tata Green Batteries, Chairman, Road Safety Sub Committee, FICCI, and Chairman, Aftermarket Committee, Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA), and Mr. Rajneesh Sharma, Director, CSR, MakeMyTrip, among others.

For more information, please contact Aryushi Srivastava at 9999032272

Rupali Rai, Sr. Manager, Global Marketing, VisionSpring at 9650070551

Shrikant Ayyangar, Lead, Communications, Mission for Vision at9819258828

Shekhar Nambiar,Media Contact, India Vision Institute at9810164167

VisionSpring ( 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 50 lakh (5 million) pairs of corrective eyeglasses in India, creating more than Rs. 8,100 Crore ($1.08 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 Times.

Sightsavers Indiais a development organization 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. Over the past five decades, Sightsavers has reached out to 55 million people with potential eye problems till date.We work with partner organizations across major states in India bringing eye healthcare, educational support, counselling, training, and leadership development to visually impaired people in some of the least served areas of the country.Sightsavers India has been implementing its RAAHI – National Truckers Eye Health Programme over last 5 years across the major National Highways on India. Through 20 static vision centers and 40 camp locations spread across 54 cities in 16 states, Sightsavers’ RAAHI Programme, has been able to reach to approx. 6Lacs truck drivers who travel along India’s Golden Quadrilateral and other highways. The project has provided 2.7 Lacs spectacles to the truck driving communities contributing to safe and healthy driving.

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. The organisation was founded on the philosophy of Caring CapitalismⓇ, rooted in the belief that an individual should give a portion of generated wealth to the communities from which they have benefitted. Blindness is largely a consequence of poverty and people with visual impairment are more likely to become economically challenged if eye care is inaccessible. The certainty that eradicating avoidable blindness enhances productivity and leads to social and economic equality powered MFV to provide the underprivileged communities with access to quality eye health care at their doorsteps. Today, MFV works in 21 Indian states with leading eye health partners. MFV and its partners have enabled interventions to 17.63+ million people and 2.66+ million eye surgeries, at no cost to the patient. MFV has also contributed towards the establishment of 19 leading charitable eye centres in India. MFV has also enabled the establishment of 110+ Vision Centres (VCs). During 2021-22, MFV along with its partners has enabled over 531,200 eye health interventions and provided over 145,900 eye surgeries at no cost to the patient.

India Vision Institute (IVI)is an independent Indian not-for-profit non-government organization with the vision to provide access to primary eye care for underprivileged Indians and a pair of corrective glasses to those in need.IVI works to advance the optometry sector through capacity building initiatives, advocacy, and leadership development, helping young optometrists equip themselves to cope with challenges in their careers and practice. Our outreach and advocacy activities include awareness generation, vision walks, and engaging with communities, schools, partner institutions, and others through talks, education, skill enhancement, and leadership development.Since we began our activities in 2012, IVI’s vision screenings have touched over 750,000 lives. Adults and children in underprivileged communities have been among our beneficiaries. Vision and Road Safety is among the core priorities for IVI that involves working with corporates/organizations on screenings and provision of free spectacles for commercial vehicle drivers.


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