Liat Clark from Wired writes about REAP's vision care social enterprise, Smart Focus Vision, winning the Clearly Vision Prize for startups that bring low-cost vision care to rural communities around the world. Read the original article here.
The US-based startup has partnered with eyewear company Luxottica OneSight to help scale eye care to ten million people in China that do not have access to affordable services. According to research conducted by Stanford University, only one out of six rural children in China has a set of glasses and most rural students have never had an eye exam. The for-profit ran a pilot operation in conjunction with the Chinese Academy of Sciences before launching in the provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu, where it distributes low-cost glasses, trains doctors and teachers, and constructs clinics. Teachers can test vision directly in classrooms and use mobile phones to automate patient referrals and prescriptions. Smart Focus argues the nonprofit route would never have been a sustainable or scalable way of helping the number of children that need eye care.
As well as a share of the prize money, the winners will have access to mentoring and be invited to a series of one-day events - Clearly Labs - around the globe where they can meet optometrists and other entrepreneurs. The campaign has a number of high-profile advisers onboard, including cofounder of Warby Parker, Neil Blumenthal and founder of Shanghai Tang, David Tang, who commented: "Access to good sight should not be a luxury. Yet, 2.5 billion people are still forced to go without clear vision. Radical new thinking is necessary to rectify this.”