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AAOpt 2023: Raising awareness for vision health


Optometry Times sat down with Carla Calizaire, Global Leader of Diversity Inclusion for Johnson and Johnson Med Tech to go in depth about the Vision Made Possible and Sight for Kids campaign.

Carla Calizaire met with Optometry Times to discuss Johnson & Johnson's campaigns Vision Made Possible and Sight for Kids.

Video Transcript

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Emily Kaiser Maharjan:
Hi, everyone. I'm here with Carla Calizaire, Global Leader of Diversity Inclusion for Johnson and Johnson Med Tech. She's here to talk about Vision Made Possible and Sight for Kids campaigns. Welcome, Carla. I'm so happy to have you here.

Carla Calizaire:
I'm so happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

Kaiser Maharjan:
Of course. So first, can you tell us about Vision Made Possible?

Yes, absolutely. I'm so thrilled to talk about Vision Made Possible. Vision Made Possible is one of J&J's brand new campaigns. The purpose of Vision Made Possible is really to raise awareness around the importance of eye health at all ages and stages of life. One of the things that many of us don't realize is how important something like vision is until you lose it. We live and experience life through sight, being able to see the people that we care about, the things around us. But, what many people don't realize is over 2 billion people across the globe, have visual impairments and about a billion of those visual impairments could have been addressed or is not being addressed. It's so important when you have something like a comprehensive eye exam, it can give you awareness around things like heart disease, stroke, different things that you may not be aware of. So, through this campaign, we're really bringing life to everybody's stories. We're working with patients and eye care professionals to tell their stories across the globe, about what they went through, and maybe some of the ways that it was rectified.

Kaiser Maharjan:
That sounds amazing. Can you talk about Sight for Kids as well?

Yeah, absolutely. Okay so, Sight for Kids also gets me super excited because I love anything that deals with our children, the next generation, the future. Within sight for kids, it's our partnership with the Lions Club International, it started about 2002. Let me just tell you a little bit about it and then I'm going to tell you some of the impact that we've seen with Sight for Kids. So it's our opportunity, as I just mentioned to you the importance of eye health, right. If you get a comprehensive eye exam, it can stop you from losing your sight, or at least lead you in the direction to get some correction. But, there's a lot of people who don't have access to this. What we do with Sight for Kids is we partnered with Lions to bring comprehensive eye exams in low income areas to children across the globe. Guess how many kids we've touched since we started, 48 million students have been touched since we started. So we reach generally about 3 million children annually. We engage the teachers and thank goodness for our eye care professionals who give their time and energy to make sure that we can get to different communities so that we can provide these comprehensive eye exams for children. One of the things that I think is really cool [is] part of this is that we also give glasses. So, over half a million glasses have been provided to children. Could you imagine that? Imagine if you were a little kid and all you wanted to do was learn, all you wanted to do is see, but you couldn't. Sometimes people are looking at you and asking what's going on, sometimes these children just can't see. This gives us an opportunity so that they can get the help they need so that they can flourish.

Kaiser Maharjan:
Oh, absolutely. That sounds like such an incredible initiative. Can you tell us a little bit about how you and J&J hope to use these campaigns to improve eye care.

We really want to put power towards voice and storytelling. So, with Vision Made Possible, we're partnering with renowned photographer Kate T. Parker, and she's really going around through social channels and really capturing people's stories. When you hear someone's story, sometimes you see yourself in it or you see a family member. Hopefully as we tell the stories, people are like, oh my gosh, I need to get an eye exam and prioritize that. Through that prioritization, we're hoping that we can save people from potentially losing that gift of sight, which is truly a gift. I mean, can you imagine all the things that you see every single day that makes you smile that brings you joy, pictures or roses? Imagine if you didn't have that. But, imagine if you didn't have that, and you found out that it was preventable. So that's what we're trying to do. We're really trying to raise awareness. So as many people who may not have access or have access can get some of this life changing, potentially, comprehensive eye exams, because through an eye exam, 270 different diseases can be identified. Isn't it crazy? How one eye exam can have such a great impact?

Kaiser Maharjan:
Absolutely. If there's one thing that I know all eye care professionals will agree on is that annual eye exams are essential. For those who want to participate in Vision Made Possible and Sight for Kids, how can they go about that?

So first of all, I would encourage everybody to get on our J&J vision website so that you can listen to the stories. I was listening to a story this morning about someone from my home state right now. He was talking about how he was literally driving, and then he couldn't see. So these things also help protect society, too, when we can see when we do things like driving. But, they can participate by going on, getting information, listening to stories, and maybe sharing the word. Our goal is, let's start a campaign with one spark, we can start a fire, which we can start a huge campaign. Maybe the person whose life that you changed will be someone that you know in your family, who may not have even thought about what you're sharing. So that's the first way, just go on the website, listen to the stories and see if you can take action. The other thing is, I would encourage everybody [to] make sure you go take that comprehensive eye exam. Let's prioritize ourselves in our health, in our family. We do so many different things, let's make sure that we can live in a way that we can be able to enjoy that through the gift of sight.

Kaiser Maharjan:
Absolutely. That sounds amazing. Is there anything else that you want to add that we haven't touched on?

The one thing I'll say is that we're just very grateful for our eye care partners who give up their time and their energy to make sure that we can provide the services and certainly the Lions Club International for the work that they do. It is heralding work to go across the globe and to go into a lot of different communities and to be that voice for people who may not have someone to say, "hey, I'm going to bring the resources you need." So [I] just want to say a special thanks for everybody who's participating and people who donate their time and energy to help others. That's what it's all about.

Kaiser Maharjan:
Absolutely. Thank you so much for joining us today, Carla. I can't wait to hear more about Vision Made Possible and Sight for Kids and how these campaigns progress.

Thank you and thanks for the time. I enjoyed this conversation.

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