Skip to content

Vision Research Trials

Uncorrected poor vision is the largest unaddressed disability in the world, affecting 1.1 billion people. Although the solution is easily solved in advanced economies using an invention that has existed for 700 years – glasses – it leaves many in developing countries debilitated, with 90 percent of all vision loss located in low and middle-income countries. The next vital step towards finding a solution to poor vision is cementing its importance within the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to unite the world in striving for a solution.

James is on a mission to demonstrate to leaders that vision makes for a powerful engine in challenging global inequalities.

James Chen is on a mission to demonstrate to leaders around the world that eyecare and vision correction make for an important and powerful engine in challenging global inequalities. To do so, he is funding ongoing international trials that explore the various impacts uncorrected poor vision have on people around the world and, conversely, how the distribution of affordable eyecare will accelerate progress towards achieving the SDGs. The research has the potential to influence local and international policy and make real change that saves lives.

In 2018, James completed his initial research, PROSPER 1: the first randomised controlled trial on the impact of vision on productivity. The study was based in Assam, India, and focused on 750 mostly female tea pickers, with poor vision. It was able to measure the difference in both the quantity and quality of tea picking. The results showed a 21% average increase in overall productivity from the group that had their vision corrected versus the ones who had not. The trial provided a springboard for James’s mission, revealing the transformative impact of glasses to a global audience.

Following PROSPER 1’s success , James launched another set of research trials. BRIGHT classrooms will examine the potential benefits of natural lighting in classrooms in abating the development of short-sightedness. SWISH, meanwhile, will explore the impact that access to glasses has on academic choices of primary school students – whether they go on to an academic or vocational high school. PROSPER 2 and 3 will build on the research of the completed first trial. Both studies will continue to measure the impact of glasses on the productivity of manual workers, but within the textile industry in India, to demonstrate consistent findings in a different industry. PROSPER 3 will also focus on workplace retention, examining whether improving the near vision of textile workers in their 40 and 50s allows them to remain engaged in the workforce for longer. 

Knowledge gathered from these trials seek to improve lives for millions of children, adults and elders across the world.

In addition to this, there are four ongoing trials within a singular project titled ENGINE, which explore how the single low-cost intervention of glasses can drive progress towards achieving the SDGs. Supported by the Wellcome Trust and the Chen Yet-Sen Family Foundation, ENGINE will deliver four novel trials in four countries through the work of 29 organisations. The trials examine treatment for both short and long-sightedness as a means to improve road safety, educational achievement, robust mental health with ageing and financial independence.

Knowledge gathered from all these trials seek to improve lives for millions of children, adults and elders struggling with poor vision across the world.