Bhutan-Essilor partnership to reduce poor vision in the country was launched last Tuesday with Her Majesty Gyalyum Kesang Choeden Wangchuck presenting eyeglasses to Bhutanese citizens in Thimphu.
Through Her Majesty’s effort, Essilor International had pledged to donate 400,000 pairs of eyeglasses that will benefit the Bhutanese population. The donation of eyeglasses consists of glasses for correction of refractive errors as well as sunglasses which will be distributed to the Bhutanese population.
“The Ministry of Health is immensely grateful to Her Majesty for her benevolence and concern for the health of Bhutanese citizens,” states the press release from the health ministry.
Health minister Dechen Wangmo also thanked Essilor for their commitment to this cause. “We hope that through this partnership, the prevalence of poor vision is significantly reduced, that every Bhutanese who requires refractive error correction has access to eyeglasses,” the minister said.
Meanwhile, the health ministry is currently conducting a school screening program where all students in schools and monastic institutions in the country are being screened for refractive errors.
Called the ‘Bhutan School Sight program’, free vision screening for all students aged six to eighteen and equips those in need with free glasses is underway and will be completed by October. The adult screening program will then begin in 2020.
As part of the partnership, starting from the last quarter of 2019, nearly 200 health assistants will be reportedly trained to conduct basic visual acuity tests, distribute simple reading glasses and direct patients with vision correction needs to eye health practitioners. These health assistants will be able to conduct vision screenings for the residents in their communities.
“Through the Essilor donation, all students diagnosed with refractive errors will be provided free eyeglasses. The Ministry of Health will also be distributing the eyeglasses to people requiring refractive error correction, through hospitals,” states the press release.
Meanwhile, Essilor International is a French-based international company that manufactures eyeglasses, and has entered into a partnership with Bhutan to sustainably strengthen the country’s vision care infrastructure and eradicate unprotected and uncorrected poor vision from its population.
The Chairman of Essilor, Hubert Sagnieres, said: “Good vision transforms more than just a person’s health and wellbeing – it reduces inequalities and positively impacts the daily lives of individuals, their families and their communities through their ability to learn, work and be safe. Simply put, improving sight improves lives and will help advance the country’s Gross National Happiness Index.”
“We are pleased with the progress of our journey together so far and look forward to many more milestones. It is an honor to be making a difference in the lives of Bhutanese citizens, and those of citizens around the world as we work toward eradicating poor vision in one generation,” he added.
According to Essilor International, 25% of those in Bhutan today suffer from uncorrected poor vision, and a large portion is at risk of exposure to UVA/UVB rays due to high altitudes. Together, the partners will address the two greatest barriers to good vision – access and awareness – through training and capacity building, philanthropic support and raising awareness.
Tshering from Thimphu