Since its inception in 1990, the Lions’ SightFirst program has helped restore sight to more than 30 million people around the world. SightFirst builds comprehensive eye care systems to fight the major causes of blindness and to care for blind and visually impaired people. The program has invested more than $200 million to support high-quality, sustainable projects that deliver eye care services, train personnel, develop infrastructure and/or provide rehabilitation and education in underserved communities. Lions orchestrate SightFirst projects in partnership with local health authorities, eye care professionals and other non-governmental organizations. Lions are actively involved in project management, fundraising, organization of outreach events and publicity. In some communities, Lions also advocate for increased government support of blindness prevention efforts. Through the work of Lions and their partners, SightFirst aims to improve the performance of eye care systems in underserved communities. Despite the extraordinary success of SightFirst, much work remains. Experts predict that by 2020 the world’s blind population could double to 75 million and those with low vision may grow to nearly 250 million. In response, Lions have raised an additional $200 million to continue and expand SightFirst. These funds enable the program to maintain its effort to control and eliminate avoidable causes of blindness such as cataracts, trachoma and river blindness while broadening its reach to combat emerging threats to vision including diabetic retinopathy, uncorrected refractive error, low vision and childhood blindness. SightFirst will also support vision rehabilitation, education for the blind and visually impaired, and vital public health research. The SightFirst Advisory Committee (SAC), the Lions leadership body responsible for the review and recommendation of SightFirst grant applications, is currently engaged in the development of a long-range plan for the second phase of SightFirst. “The setting of goals and operating within them in a long-range plan assists SightFirst in maximizing the use of its financial resources for its self-identified priorities, such as reducing the cataract backlog or correcting eye problems in kids,” said Edward McManus, chairperson of the SightFirst Long-Range Planning Committee and former deputy director of the National Eye Institute. “It is the first step in responsible stewardship of the funds donated by the Lions membership. Planning ensures that SightFirst will continue its high level of performance as one of the world’s leading non-profit programs in the health arena, and it has identified new areas that can and should be addressed by SightFirst.” Policy position papers have been developed and approved by the SightFirst Advisory Committee on trachoma, cataract, childhood blindness, onchocerciasis, diabetic retinopathy, eye health education, uncorrected refractive error, low vision, glaucoma, directed research, advocacy and comprehensive eye care. These policies will help guide future grant funding in these areas and are available on the Foundation’s Web site at www.lcif.org/sightfirst. Additional long-term policies are being developed in the areas of technical assistance, rehabilitation and training with expected roll out in late 2010.
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