have long played a key role in preventing blindness, both in their local
communities as well as globally. To build on Lions’ mission of service and
increase their global impact, in 1990 Lions Clubs International Foundation
launched SightFirst, a major
international program to combat avoidable blindness. Hundreds of thousands of people have had their
eyesight improved, at an average cost of US$6 per person.
Through SightFirst, Lions
develop and implement projects that save sight, raise awareness of eye diseases
and educate communities on preventative programs. The Lions Eye Health Program
(LEHP) was created as a SightFirst activity for Lions within developed
countries. LEHP is a community based eye health program that aims to prevent
vision loss by promoting early detection and timely treatment of eye diseases. Because
the program encourages people to visit an eye care professional, it is most
appropriate for those with a strong eye care system in place.
The program was officially
created in the United States, as a result of a 1991 U.S. National Eye Institute
(NEI) survey that was supported through SightFirst grant funds. The survey was
conducted in order to assess the American public’s knowledge, attitudes and
practices toward eye health and disease. The findings prompted NEI to launch National
Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP). The organization creates public education
initiatives to improve community awareness and understanding. Lions continue to
help distribute messages and materials created by NEHEP to reach more people.
Following implementation in
the U.S., SightFirst provided funding for materials to be translated into other
languages. Grants were then awarded for projects in Australia and other
- In Turkey, 544 Lions were
trained to implement LEHP, and more than 12,000 people were screened for
glaucoma and diabetic eye disease.
- Lions of Multiple District
105, British Isles and Ireland partnered with the British Diabetes
Association, the International Glaucoma Association and University of
Sussex to expand LEHP nationally.
- Lions in Canada implemented
a pilot program on eye health education.
- Lions of New Zealand
launched the first and only program to treat diabetic eye disease in Fiji
by expanding outreach services.
By successfully raising more than
US$200 million through Campaign SightFirst II, Lions will remain leaders in eye
health promotion and disease prevention. Future SightFirst funds for eye health
are targeted at:
- Eye health education and
awareness in developing countries as a component of SightFirst projects.
- The establishment of
national-level eye health education initiatives. These projects will be
supported where adequate eye care services exist and where there is not
another organization in the country already providing these services.
information on the new SightFirst Eye Health Education policy can be found on
the LCIF Web site.