SYDNEY — The Fred Hollows Foundation, based in Australia, is busy pursuing a lofty goal: ending curable blindness around the world.
Since the foundation’s inception, more than two million people have had vision-enabling surgeries. Most of the operations are minimally invasive and take around 20 minutes. However, the impact for once-blind patients in Africa, the Middle East, southern and eastern Asia and Australia is both life-changing and lifelong.
The organization’s focus on sustainability makes it unique among other eye health NGOs. The Fred Hollows Foundation trains doctors, surgeons and community health workers from each region of focus. Not only do the trained individuals gain skills for a successful career, but their presence in home communities is ensured as they build their practice and train additional health care workers.
In 2016, the Fred Hollows Foundation trained 78,450 individuals, including 272 surgeons. Many of the foundation’s trainees work within the “doorstep diagnosis” initiative, visiting communities and diagnosing patients where they live. The doorstep approach allows health care workers to identify eye problems before they become critical, as well as recommend the best medical action plan to those who can’t afford a series of expensive doctor’s visits.
The foundation also provides medical equipment. A 2016 budget report showed more than 4.5 million USD spent on equipping or renovating 120 different medical facilities around the world.
In addition to training healthcare workers and providing medical equipment, the Fred Hollows Foundation focuses on political advocacy for improving universal health care. Its political efforts often include lobbying and building research to back its political demands.
A recent research project commissioned by the Fred Hollows Foundation revealed that for every one dollar invested in ending avoidable blindness, an average of four dollars is poured into a country’s economy — giving governments substantial incentive to cooperate with the foundation. Eliminating curable blindness has the potential to boost the global economy by more than 517 billion USD during a decade.
The Fred Hollows Foundation has received numerous accolades for its thorough, sustainable, long-term approach. The Life You Can Save, an organization headed by contemporary philosopher Peter Singer, hails the foundation’s mission as “cost-effective and culturally sensitive.”
As the organization’s namesake, Fred Hollows, once put it: “What we’re doing is revolutionary … What we are doing is giving these people the chance to help themselves. We are giving them independence.”
With more than 32.4 million people blind and the majority of them living in impoverished regions, the Fred Hollows Foundation is taking major strides toward better vision for the world.
– Kailey Dubinsky