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Blindness prevention stimulus package for India announced

MEDIA RELEASE

An initiative to underpin the future development of eye care services in India and advance the vision correction industry was signed today by the Brien Holden Vision Institute, Australia, and the LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI), India. The initiative is set to roll out via the newly established India Vision Institute.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed at the Australian High Commission in Delhi at a meeting attended by the NSW Premier, Mr Barry O'Farrell, and the Vice Chancellor of the University of New South Wales, Professor Fred Hilmer.

The stimulus has a total value of over $700,000 in cash and 50 higher education scholarships to be offered over the next five years. The scholarships will include Doctor of Philisophy, Master of Public Health, Master of Business Administration, Master of Optomety and Master of Science.

The initial scholarships will be offered to eye care educators to further develop their own knowledge and research skills and will be delivered through Indian universities.

CEO of the Brien Holden Vision Institute, Brien Holden, spoke after the meeting about the need in India for grassroots stimulus, "In India, the need for optometry is staggering. India has a massive vision care need; at least 456 million Indians need vision correction and over 120 million are blind or seriously vision impaired because they don't have access to appropriate spectacles."

He added, " To provide the necessary eye care, India needs at least 115 000 optometrists, 5000 new optometry graduates per year from 100 schools of optometry staffed by 1000 optometric educators plus up-skilling of at least 42 500 personnel currently working at various levels in optometry."

LVPEI Chair, Dr Gullapalli (Nag) Rao, also attended the meeting commenting: "For over 25 years, the LVPEI and the Brien Holden Vision Institute have worked together to advance public health, research and vision care education. Recently we came together to establish the Indian Vision Institute, based in Hyderabad, to build on and extend our great relationship. The Indian Vision Institute will gather the funds, create the systems and develop the expertise required to deliver sustainable vision care solutions and world-class eye health, to all Indian people."

A priority activity of the Indian Vision Institute is to build capacity for training eye care professionals through educating teachers and academic staff. The provision of higher education scholarships to educators is aimed to both stimulate research and publications in leading peer-reviewed scientific journals and to increase the effectiveness of optometric education in India.

A second priority is to help grow the capacity of India to develop affordable vision aid, such as spectacles, and high end technology products for vision correction in India.

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