- Category: Who we are
The two organisations have a shared history and one common purpose – we jointly believe that the best possible vision is the right of everyone, everywhere. Together we aim to inspire, drive, enable, collaborate, innovate, educate, advocate and negotiate what is needed so that hundreds of millions, even billions, of people worldwide can enjoy the right to sight. Whether its development of new technology to slow the development of myopia or diagnose disease, delivery of sustainable access to services or provision of eye care education in the most marginalised and remote communities in the world, the two organisations are focused on the quality of vision people experience and equity in eye care access worldwide.
The Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation began with the concern of the Institute for the devastating shortfall in eye care education in developing communities worldwide, especially around refractive error and its significance. Educational resources were scarce and in many countries, non-existent. This lack of training institutes and educational opportunities was creating a critical human resource gap in eye care.
Research in the late 1990s revealed that hundreds of millions of people across all countries were unnecessarily vision impaired or blind because they didn’t have access to an eye examination and a pair of glasses, Sadly, a decade later and thanks to more research, we know that number is in excess of 640 million people. We also know that the cost to the global economy in lost productivity, for distance vision alone, is a staggering US$269 billion each year. This does not include the cost of vision loss related to uncorrected presbyopia, a common eye condition affecting 517 million people.
The Institute began 30 years ago in Australia and quickly both recruited and linked with some of the best researchers in the world to create new and better ways to correct the most common eye conditions – myopia, presbyopia, hyperopia and astigmatism. Its research focus on new technologies including contact lenses, glasses and surgical products resulted in successful translation and commercialisation of advanced products. The success enabled reinvestment in more breakthrough research programs, postgraduate education and revenue for the Foundation to develop programs and models of vision care and to up-scale education for developing communities worldwide.
With an urgent development agenda targeting uncorrected refractive error, the Foundation grew quickly – initially with nodes in South Africa, Australia, the Philippines, India and Indonesia. Establishing relationships with organisations such as the AusAID, Optometry Giving Sight, Standard Chartered Bank Seeing is Believing and other generous donors, the Foundation has worked in 54 countries. Currently there are 13 offices, 429 vision centres and eye care sites, and three Schools of Optometry in Africa that the Foundation has set up or supports. Additionally its teaching programs have reached some 57 schools, 1652 professional educators and 39 258 eye care personnel.
All Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation activities are designed to facilitate the establishment of permanent eye care services throughout the world, by helping to equip communities with the necessary skills and resources to develop the infrastructure and human resources appropriate for sustainable growth. Importantly, in a period when translation research is being identified as a priority, the alignment of the two organisations will enhance the Foundation’s capacity to mobilise appropriate research skills to advance our evidence-based public health agenda.
Thirty six years of eye health and vision care development
- Dandona L et al. Burden of moderate visual impairment in an urban population in southern India, Ophthalmology 1999;106: 487–504.
- Taylor HR et al, Visual impairment in Australia: distance visual acuity, near vision, and visual field findings of the Melbourne Visual Impairment Project. Am J Ophthalmol, 1997;123: 328–337.