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How correcting the gender imbalance in eye health care helps both women and the economy How correcting the gender imbalance in eye health care helps both women and the economy

How correcting the gender imbalance in eye health care helps both women and the economy

Despite technological advances in eye health care, not everyone is getting the same kind of medical help. Women in remote areas in the world, in particular, are discriminated against in terms of access to quality eye health care.

Women are 1.3 times more likely to be blind or vision-impaired than men. Women account for 55 per cent of the world’s blind, and 90 per cent of blind women live in poverty. In raw numbers, 20 million women in the world are blind and a further 120 million are vision-impaired.



The reasons behind this imbalance are varied, including poverty, cultural norms, discrimination and barriers to accessing health services.

The fact is, four out of five people who are blind actually don’t need to be. This is an injustice.

International eye health organisations such as The Fred Hollows Foundation are focusing efforts on correcting the gender imbalance and improving eye health for women around the world.

Advances in eye health care mean that conditions like cataract and trachoma can be treated quickly and efficiently, usually with a straightforward operation or a simple dose of antibiotics.

But our foundation’s focus is not just on women who are blind or vision-impaired.


When a family member becomes blind from cataract, the responsibility for providing round-the-clock care often falls on the women and girls of the household, who then have no choice but to leave their jobs or drop out of school.

Restoring sight transforms not just individual lives, but also families, economies and societies.

When women can see and are able to work, and when children can excel in school, improved family finances can help revive entire communities.

Our research has shown that for every US$1 invested in improving eye health, US$4 in economic benefit is generated.


By increasing women and girls’ access to eye health care via activities such as conducting mobile eye camps, training more female eye health workers and providing eye health education in places where women gather, like maternity clinics, there is a greater chance for women to see better and build better futures for themselves and their families.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day this week, The Fred Hollows Foundation stresses the importance of correcting the gender imbalance and improving eye health for women around the world, and continues to push for gender equity in health care around the world.

* The article was originally published in South China Morning Post under the name of Laura Lee, Chief Representative of Hong Kong and ASEAN, The Fred Hollows Foundation