VisionSpring and BRAC provided one million pairs of affordable eyeglasses to low-income customers, achieving major milestones both in scaling a social entrepreneurship model, and in expanding access to vision services in Bangladesh.
The Reading Glasses for Improved Livelihoods Programme, which began in 2006, has seen marked success, contributing to significant health and economic outcomes.
For low-income earners, eyeglasses are a simple, affordable tool that sustains productivity and earning power. Since the programme's start, it is estimated to have contributed to $110 million in increased income at the household level, based on an analysis of a study conducted by the University of Michigan. With a philanthropic investment of $3.50 per pair, the return on investment is significant.
Eyeglasses can prevent middle-aged workers from experiencing any drop in efficiency and productivity associated with the eye's natural aging. Without the ability to focus up close, mechanics, barbers, tailors, teachers, artisans, and many others whose work requires clear near vision, lose years of income earning potential.
BRAC and VisionSpring developed an innovative social entrepreneurship model to reach these low-wage earners, selling low-cost reading glasses through BRAC's network of community health workers (locally known as Shasthya Shebikas).
They offer free eye screenings, and have created a referral system for nearly 610,000 customers who need higher-level care for cataracts and other eye conditions.
Living in the communities where they work, the female health workers reach customers in the most remote areas of Bangladesh through vision camps and home visits, according to Marketwired.
Marketwired founded in 1993 and incorporated in the US in 1999, is a press release distribution service headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
For 90 per cent of customers, this is their first pair of glasses. The community health workers earn a modest commission from the sale of each pair of eyeglasses; since the programme's inception, they have earned a total of $450,000 in supplemental income.
"Partnerships are central to our success. Our collaboration with BRAC exemplifies the power of bringing together two organizations that share a common purpose and ethos and possess complementary core competencies. We feel honored and privileged to have found such a wonderful long term partner," Marketwired quoted VisionSpring Founder Jordan Kassalow in release on Sunday.
Meanwhile VisionSpring, BRAC, supporters, partners in the social enterprise, and global health community members gathered in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka on Sunday and celebrated the success of the partnership and honoured the health workers and programme organisers who had brought improved vision to people in 61 of 64 districts across Bangladesh.