LONDON—Clearly, a global charity tackling the issue of poor vision has highlighted the dramatic rise of myopia among children around the world, with figures set to increase from an already worrying 300 million children today to 500 million by 2050. The revised data was featured at the start of Sightgeist a one-day event held here set up by Clearly founder James Chen on March 28, uniting many stakeholders and organizations working to address unmet vision care access around the world.

The announcement and data presented revealed the huge inequality in the delivery of vision correction and eye treatment. Uncorrected vision is already the largest unaddressed disability in the world—with 2.5 billion people suffering globally. According to Brien Holden Vision Institute, half the world may be short-sighted by 2050, with many sufferers set to go untreated throughout their life thanks to poor access to sight screenings and affordable glasses, among other factors.

Most worrying is the rapid increase of myopia in children of school age around the world. It is predicted that myopia will rise considerably in China by 2050, with 65.7 percent (120 million) of Chinese children suffering, a rise of almost 20 percent from the predicted figure for 2020 (46.9 percent). Japan will be another country with high levels of myopia, with 61.7 percent of children predicted to be myopic by 2050. Mexico will see the largest increase in myopia prevalence in school aged children, with figures rising by almost 22 percentage points from 37 percent in 2020 to 59 percent in 2050, while India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh will all see double digit increases in prevalence over the course of three decades.

James Chen, founder of Clearly, said, “Almost 700 years after glasses were first invented it is astonishing that a third of the world still cannot see clearly. Poor vision has a devastating impact on quality of life: children can't see the blackboard, workers can't reach their full potential, and countless lives are put at risk as drivers get behind the wheel without being able to see properly. Many of the world's Sustainable Development Goals will not be reached unless we first provide vision for everyone, everywhere.” He added, “If businesses and governments throughout the world took this issue seriously, we could make a profound impact on countless lives.”

Sightgeist brought together a diverse roster of speakers to meet with other stakeholders in expanding access to vision care around the world. In addition to such speakers as physicist Pro. Brian Cox, Chen, executives at Oglivy UK and Williams-Sonoma, participants at Sightgeist included a cross-coalition of organizations involved in this global public health issue, including Reade Fahs, CEO, National Vision, Inc., Ella Gudwin of VisionSpring, Pelin Munis and Mark Sachs of Restoring Vision, K-T Oberbey and Maurice Huey from OneSight, Caroline Harper of Sightsavers and other guests.

Untreated poor vision—including myopia, presbyopia and hyperopia—costs the global economy an estimated $3 trillion annually in health costs and lost productivity. A study commissioned by Clearly last year highlighted the dramatic productivity loss from poor vision among agricultural laborers; providing glasses led to an average productivity increase of 22 percent in labor productivity in a randomized controlled trial of tea workers in Assam, India. The PROsper study was published in Lancet, as VMAIL previously reported.

Clearly’s new research is published ahead of the World Health Organization’s World Report on Vision, set to be published later this year.

Watch for additional photos and comments from Sightgeist from VMAIL and Vision Monday soon.