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How innovative financing could bring vision to entire populations: new TED talk from Peek CEO Andrew Bastawrous

Peek technology in action in Kenya.

Credit: Rolex / Joan Bardeletti

Peek CEO Dr Andrew Bastawrous has outlined how innovative financing could transform the lives of millions of people with avoidable blindness and vision loss in a new TED talk published today.

“I can’t believe we still live in a world where literally millions of people are needlessly suffering from poor eyesight and blindness when we have the solutions to enable them to see – something has to change.”“There are 36 million blind people worldwide, and up to 4 in every 5 from a curable or preventable condition.  A further 2.5 billion people would have better sight with access to glasses.  Yet the vast majority of eye health issues can be treated or prevented,” says Dr Bastawrous, who is also Associate Professor of International Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

In the talk, Dr Bastawrous highlights his experiences from over a decade working in global eye health.  Building on the incredible work of and significant progress achieved by numerous charities, funders and other organisations, he talks about how there is now an opportunity to explore and implement new global funding mechanisms which could transform eye health and bring vision to entire populations in just one generation. 

The result would be that millions of people who currently aren’t receiving eye care, simply because there aren’t the sufficient funds or structures in place to treat them, could access the treatment they need in order to live productive and fulfilled lives.

To make this step change in global eye health a reality, a group of private sector and philanthropic organisations have come together and begun working together on an ambitious project to create a Vision Catalyst Fund.

The aim is to mobilise and catalyse significant funding to support governments to scale up eye health programmes and make them a part of strengthened health systems in order to bring vision to entire populations.

A multidisciplinary task force has now been created with the responsibility of progressing the Fund, including senior representatives from the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee TrustStandard Chartered BankUBSEssilorClearly and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. Working groups are being established to determine the Fund’s strategy and structure, and they will report to the Task Force over the next year.

Dr Bastawrous believes that investing in eye health systems at a national and global level in this way would provide a powerful catalyst for change, making the prospect of a world free from avoidable blindness and vision loss a reality.

“My hope is that the Vision Catalyst Fund will enable organisations to continue to work together in partnership at even greater scale, with the space to be creative and ambitious, so that ultimately all the individuals affected can receive the care that they deserve regardless of who they are or where they live,” says Dr Bastawrous.

“This won’t just transform people’s health and social lives – it will create huge global economic benefit, which will in turn create sustainability to perpetuate a cycle of continual improvement and change.”

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