Their First Vision Exam

At 86, Hoang Dac Thang remains energetic and fully engaged. He’s chairman of the management board of the Elderly Association in his commune in the Quoc Oai District of Hanoi, Vietnam. Many members of the association had lived their entire lives without seeing an eye doctor, Mr. Hoang said. So he and his management-board colleagues were delighted when they were invited to help implement in their commune HKI’s Vision Entrepreneurs Project for Rural Communities in Hanoi.

HKI launched the initiative in cooperation with Vietnamese health authorities to address the unmet needs of older adults experiencing presbyopia or farsightedness, which can be corrected with eyeglasses. In the process, HKI aimed to develop a service delivery model that could be replicated in other underserved communities.

“We realized that the Elderly Association should be proactive because we would be the direct beneficiaries of the project,” Mr. Hoang said. Once the local health center established an eye-exam schedule, he said, his team got the word out every way they could: messages, phone calls, bulletin-board reminders and public-address system announcements.

“This work was not easy, because elderly people in a rural area like ours are often hesitant to seek health care services,” Mr. Hoang said. But all went well. “I witnessed eye examinations to our members by a foreign eye doctor. I could see with my own eyes that she was very careful. And members who needed it were taken to free eye surgery in Quoc Oai Hospital.”

A few weeks after the exams, he said, Elderly Association members picked up their prescribed eyeglasses from optic shops in Quoc Oai at the community health center, either at an affordable price or free to those who qualified. Follow-ups were arranged to ensure any problems were remedied.

Mr. Hoang hopes the Vision Entrepreneurs Project can be widely expanded.