Social Entrepreneur Bringing Quality Vision Care to India’s Poor

Social Entrepreneur Bringing Quality Vision Care to India's PoorDr. R.V. Ramani, founder of the Sankara Eye Care in Coimbatore, India, has created a successful healthcare model to deliver quality vision care to the underprivileged in rural India. Dr. Ramani’s social enterprise model works on a unique 20/80 principle where 20 percent of the patients pay for the free treatment of the remaining 80 percent of the patients who cannot afford to pay.

Dr. Ramani and his dedicated team of eye doctors perform 500 eye surgeries per day free of cost. Nearly 70 percent of these are cataract surgeries. Over the last two decades Sankara Eye Care institutions have performed more than 0.9 million free eye surgeries across India. Dr. Ramani says that even though the achievements of his group are phenomenal, they remain unsung heroes because they work out of a relatively smaller place like Coimbatore, and not a metropolitan city like New Delhi or Chennai.

Dr. Ramani’s social enterprise for vision care has a clear rural focus. He says about their typical mode of working, “We identify a cluster of 10 villages, and partner with some local women and youth, who help with the initial health survey of the villagers.” Out of every 10,000 villagers on average, about 600 to 700 people suffer from some form of visual impairment. Sankara Eye Care provides them “Gift of Vision” cards.

Thereafter, a team of doctors and paramedics from the closest Sankara Center visits those villages, treats the patients, and transports the patients requiring surgery to the main hospital. The quality of care provided to poor patients is at par with that of the paid patients. Dr. Ramani says, “We do state of the art, sutureless phaco surgery with IOL implants. The actual cost of a cataract with IOL is Rs 2,750 ($60) because we do huge volumes. We implant high-quality lenses made in Chennai.”

Dr. Ramani’s social entrepreneurship and social innovation has led him to replicate the Coimbatore model at eight centers across India. The centers not only provide vision care to the needy, but also equip the local youth from the villages with technical skills to assist in the vision care programs. India is home to the largest number of visually impaired people in the world. Social enterprises such as Dr. Ramani’s Sankara Eye Care can manage to create a ripple effect on the socio-economic structure of rural India without any government aid or support.

Photo Credit: barunpatro

Uniontown Lions Recycling Program

Lions Recycle For SightThe Uniontown Lions Club collects old or unwanted eyeglasses for distribution to the visually impaired in developing nations. While 130.4 millions Americans wear prescription eyeglasses, according to the Vision Council of America, many children and adults in developing nations struggle through life with poor or severely impaired vision, due to expensive and limited eye care resources. According to the World Health Organization, the eyesight of one-in-four people worldwide can be improved through the use of corrective lenses. In some developing nations, an eye exam can cost as much as a month’s wages and there may be only one eye care physician available for several hundred thousand people. You can make a dramatic difference in the life of a child or adult by simply donating a pair of eyeglasses.

Despite the profound need for eyeglasses around the world, 68% of eyeglasses still languish in dresser drawers or get thrown away, according to a survey sponsored by Lions Clubs International. In fact, more than 75% of Americans who purchase prescription eyeglasses do not recycle their old eyeglasses when they buy a new pair, and more than half (62.2%) of those surveyed purchase new eyewear at least once every two or three years.

All types of eyeglasses and sunglasses, prescription and non-prescription, are acceptable. Exceptionally strong or weak prescriptions are needed. Reading glasses are very useful because many recipients are craftsman in need of visual correction to help them perform close-up tasks. Sunglasses are needed by people living near the equator, especially those with cataract, to shield their eyes from the sun’s damaging rays.

eyeglass rcycling centersThe eyeglasses you donate are processed by our club members. The glasses are cleaned, the prescriptions are read with our digital lensometer, and the glasses bagged and labeled. We then provide these glasses to several local optometrists who travel to Latin America to fit them to the poor. The glasses you donate today could be helping a poor villager see in a few months.