Along with resources and access to care, awareness and education go hand-in-hand with preventing avoidable blindness — especially as the rates of myopia and diabetes continue to rise worldwide. To fill the role in regions where eye and vision care is limited, international charities like Orbis Singapore step in to perform sight-saving work in avoidable blindness prevention and treatment.
In addition to funds, events that raise public awareness are crucial to this continued effort — and as such, the nonprofit recently held the Jebsen & Jessen-Orbis Virtual Race4Sight, a 40-day challenge which culminated on World Sight Day (Oct. 14, 2021). Over the 40 days, 250 participants from Singapore and more than 1,000 global supporters from the U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacific donned bright blue t-shirts to either run 100km or cycle 500km. In total, the Singaporeans contributed nearly 191,300km on top of the 504,700km completed globally. Throughout the challenge, participants posted their progress on social media to help raise funds and increase awareness of the importance of good eye health.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”
It’s common knowledge that exercise and health, including eye health, are closely related. Indeed, the combination of poor diet and lack of exercise have caused diabetes cases to increase exponentially: By 2050, an estimated one million people are expected to suffer from diabetes. This can lead to diabetic retinopathy, a progressive disease that can cause blindness if undiagnosed or untreated.
Myopia is another “pandemic” and its prevalence in Singapore is among the highest around the world. It’s predicted that by 2050, 80-90% of Singaporean adults will be myopic, and 15-25% of those will suffer from high myopia, which is a risk factor for other sight-threatening conditions. Studies have shown that exercising and increased time outdoors for children can help lower the risk of myopia, highlighting the need for public awareness efforts such as Race4Sight.
Sponsors and supporters light the way
In the nonprofit world, sponsor support is crucial: This year’s Race4Sight’s title sponsor was Jebsen & Jessen. In addition to the sponsorship, several employees volunteered during the challenge to serve as “eyes” for other visually impaired participants. The experience also served to increase awareness of the daily difficulties faced by those with vision impairment in a meaningful way.
Orbis Singapore Chairman Stuart Dean shared that the generosity of Jebsen & Jessen will allow the nonprofit to continue growing its simulation training. These initiatives include its virtual Flying Eye Hospitals and Orbis Cybersight, a telemedicine platform that connects experts with local eye care practitioners to restore sight in countries with the greatest need.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the platform has seen a noticeable uptake in training by ophthalmologists worldwide — and particularly in Southeast Asia. One recent Cybersight webinar was given on myopia by Singapore’s own Dr. Marcus Ang, senior consultant at Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) and Orbis Singapore board director.
In addition, 12 Orbis volunteer faculty (including ophthalmologists and a biomedical engineer) have offered their expertise to train eye care teams in Myanmar, the Philippines, China and Syria through the Flying Eye Hospital and other Orbis hospital-based programs.
For more information, or to get involved, visit Orbis Singapore.