India Vision Institute (IVI) ( a not-for-profit registered trust) was born out of a collaboration between LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad and Brien Holden Vision Institute, Sydney with a vision to promote excellence in vision care delivery in India. The institute strives to support research; education and technology in eye care delivery.Most importantly, the goal is to help the most needy who may not have access to either medical attention nor the funds to acquire a basic yet essential pair of spectacles.
Here’s our chat with Mr Vinod Daniel ,the CEO and Managing Trustee – and the founding force of India Vision Institute.
What led you to create the India Vision Institute?
Over 100 million Indians have some form of visual impairment or the other. IVI was established as a not-for-profit trust to assist in creating accessible and affordable quality eye care services to this population. Sydney based Brien Holden Vision Institute and Hyderabad based LV Prasad Eye Institute were instrumental in establishing this. We are working in different parts of India through vision screening programs and free distribution of spectacles to the needy. We are trying to complement the state sector and other private initiatives providing eye care. We hope to make a difference to people in India with vision and eye health problems.
The impact of just having a pair of glasses is huge. Children can study better in schools since 80% of what they learn is visual. Adults can be more productive and have fewer accidents.
When you first started out with the outreach programs, what sort of response did you meet amongst the socio-economic communities you were engaging with?
The problem was huge. At the outset, it was evident that lack of access to vision screening was the primary issue than anything else. In the remote parts, inaccessibility and lack of basic infrastructure facilities added to the problem. Lack of awareness about eye health and avoidable/preventable blindness was yet another issue. Our teams reached out to underprivileged communities, teamed up with grassroot organizations, and organized awareness and screening campaigns, providing free spectacles to those who required them, as well as referring others to hospitals for specialist attention.
I am pleased to say that to date, we have screened 11,099 adults and 67,577 children in Tamil Nadu. In Chennai, 9,622 adults and 59,185 children have been screened. Nationally, 44,368 adults and 74,837children have been screened. Free spectacles were provided to all those in need.
What remains the biggest challenge for the organization today?
India is a huge country with a big population. So, it is not easy to reach every nook and corner although an all-out effort is being made to get as many people as possible vision screened. Overcoming the challenge remains a top priority.
We work through several initiatives and campaigns to address some of the seemingly insurmountable challenges. For example, a Vision Centre in Chennai is striving to serve communities spread across the city. It is a walk-in facility for the underprivileged to get their eyes screened and get a pair of spectacles if required. The Vision Centre serves communities located several kilometers around it. Our awareness generation campaigns also cover different parts of the country. Campaigns such as ‘Walk in the Dark’ – in Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Goa and Kolkata – are especially targeted to city-dwellers, policymakers and institutions. All these have evoked wide and positive media attention. We are confident to make a difference in our endeavors.
We also work towards raising development of Optometry in India by conceptualizing and developing need based continuous education programs and leadership development programs.
IVI has worked with over 40 partners through various programs that have benefitted over 4,800 Optometry professionals and spread awareness about the importance of Optometry to millions of individuals among the general public in India.
How do you pick the areas across India where you want to launch and conduct your programs?
Our primary focus remains India’s vast underprivileged communities. The problem really lies there. Through awareness campaigns and vision screenings, we hope to make a difference. We have so far worked in 18 Indian states and Union Territories.
What are the ways in which people can get involved with the India Vision Institute, either at an individual level or as an organization?
Our approach is to work in partnerships. This has helped us reach the needy in many different parts of India. We will continue to do so. Our website IVI lists an array of projects that we deal with and anyone who is interested to know more can always approach us. We welcome organizations and individuals to come forward and support us. Corporate support is vital for the success of our programs and we encourage them to come forward and generously contribute and donate funds through their CSR activities.
Tell us more about the IVI Young Leaders Program?
The IVI Young Leaders Program aims to motivate and train young eye care professionals to take up a leadership role in advancing optometry and eye care delivery in India. Given the sheer magnitude of challenges in eye care delivery in India, the program equips participants to approach challenges with a fresh perspective. The year-long program comprising a series of three workshops was launched at Hyderabad in April 2013 and so far identified and trained 50 professionals from different parts of the country. The participants also take up group projects promoting Optometry in India.
YLP makes young optometrists confident, responsible leaders, in the process helping industry and the broader community.
What has been the most rewarding part of creating and running IVI?
Nothing gives me more satisfaction than the good feeling of playing a role in improving the vision health of Indians. We, at IVI, can justifiably be proud of the fact we are making a meaningful contribution to society.