Vision health is seldom defined as an “essential service,” yet our sight is absolutely essential to our quality of life, safety, economic security, and general health and well-being.
Lions Vision Services improves health and wellness by expanding access to vision-related health care in every county across South Carolina in a way that addresses systemic inequity for people with lower household incomes by improving their quality of life.
The need for this work is increasing significantly. The number of blind and visually impaired persons is expected to double by 2030 without immediate and ongoing intervention. This will create an unprecedented strain on a fragile public health system through the developing spike in vision loss, which will impact the most vulnerable among us most severely.
Vision and eye health sits at a pivotal intersection of social determinants of health and serves as an insightful bellwether of other health conditions within a population, including mental health. Addressing vision health first will empower the individuals we serve to more confidently and effectively take control of their overall health and wellbeing. Vision is a critical component of the public health aparatus that imposes an economic burden of nearly $3 billion in South Carolina alone. According to the CDC, people with severe vision loss in South Carolina are more likely to have diabetes, arthrits, and mobility issues. Vision loss is also related to isolation, balance problems, and risk of early death.
You can learn more about vision health in South Carolina through the CDC’s Vision Health Initiative.
South Carolina has consistently demonstrated an unwillingness to address access to healthcare through available government programs. South Carolinians are more likely to be uninsured compared to the nationwide population. There is currently a gap in coverage for individuals who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for premium tax credits under Marketplace coverage.
It is not reasonable to expect that families at this income level can adequately address vision impairments, let alone preventative care which could have addressed vision loss earlier and more effectively.
Our programs provide a proven methodology to create permanent positive change in the lives of the blind and visually impaired who need it most. These programs are aligned with multiple Sustainable Development Goals, and UN Resolution A/RES/75/310 is now the first agreement designed to tackle preventable sight loss to be adopted at the United Nations, enshrining eye health as part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
What began in 1969 as an effort by the Lions of South Carolina to take collective action that would enable more service to those in the blind and visually impaired community who lacked the financial means to secure adequate medical attention has become a regional force for sight conservation.
To ensure the organization’s continued efficiency in accomplishing its mission, the Board of Directors maintains a 3-year Strategic Plan. Staff create an Annual Plan based on the Board’s priorities. Progress on this plan is reported back to the Board quarterly. The current plan runs from 2023-2026 and includes several goals:
1. Strive to become the largest nonprofit eye surgery program serving low income families in South Carolina, delivering over 250 eye surgeries annually.
2. Expand services offered that are complementary to our vision programs and enable serving an additional 100 people in need of assistance.
3. Create an LVS Ambassador position in each South Carolina Lions Club with the assistance of South Carolina Lions leadership.
4. Take steps to significantly increase LVS brand awareness throughout South Carolina.
To learn more about our future and the details of this plan, read our full Strategic Plan.