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New study shows reading glasses have an economic impact

Hope Alliance volunteers perform an eye examination in a rural village in Uganda in 2018.
Leslie Thatcher
Hope Alliance volunteers perform an eye examination in a rural village in Uganda in 2018.

The efforts of Park City’s nonprofit Hope Alliance were validated this week by a new study that found when older workers were given free reading glasses, they earned a third more than those who did not have them.

Hope Alliance began 25 years ago with a much broader mission than vision care, but today, it focuses on providing eyeglasses to those who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them.

“So that could be for a number of reasons,” Bernhardt said. “It could be because you live in Uganda in a primitive area that there just are no glasses. It could be because you don't have insurance, and your family can't afford it here in Utah.

That’s the Executive Director of Hope Alliance Diane Bernhardt who added that even a $15 pair of glasses is out of reach for some.

She says a recent study found that when older workers in Bangladesh were given reading glasses, they were able to earn 33% more money and their quality of life improved as a result.
“We were very excited to read this article,” she said. “Because this is something that we've known – well, we all can know sort of anecdotally. Hope Alliance has known firsthand the ramifications that can make by having a pair of glasses, not just from an income perspective, but also from an educational perspective, from an interpersonal perspective. If you can't see someone's expression on their face at a distance, communication drops.”

A Uganda man admires his new glasses and the abilty to read once again.
Leslie Thatcher
A Uganda man admires his new glasses and the abilty to read once again.

Hope Alliance uses volunteers to help with their traveling eye clinics every year in Guatemala, Mexico and Uganda. While the organization has been limited to providing free eye exams and eyeglasses, Bernhardt says they are very close to finalizing a partnership with ICore that can help with another debilitating vision problem that they haven’t been able to help with until now: cataracts.

“They [iCore] are located in Boston, but they have a presence here,” she said. “They serve in three locations in Tanzania. So, we're setting ourselves up to go to Tanzania, meet them there in the beginning of November, where we would set up that model of doing the refractions, identifying them, and then they would do cataract care for the camp that's there. But also they have a doctor there, though, who will do the continuation.”



New York Times


The Week