Saturday, February 21, 2009

‘Visionary’ humanitarian promotion by U.S. Government

America may be scoring some global points through an outreach and aid program that provides inexpensive adjustable eyeglasses to some of the world’s most impoverished nations.

Joshua Silver, an atomic physicist who taught optics at Oxford, has invented an amazing pair of inexpensive “adaptive eyeglasses” which allow the wearer to set their own site correction by pumping a clear silicon liquid oil into a thin sac in the lense until the focus is right. No doctor visit or testing is required and the glasses correct vision impairment almost instantly. Silver is pictured above wearing his invention.

The glasses aren’t exactly stylish — think early Woody Allen or a 1960’s math geek — but they could help improve quality of life for millions of poor people whose options are limited by impaired site.

In the U.S. and other wealthy nations, 60-70 percent of people wear corrective lenses. But in many developing countries, only 5 percent have glasses due to high costs and limited access to professional eye care.

The glasses cost about $19 to make, but the inventor hopes to cut that by a few dollars as production ramps up. His grand “vision” is to eventually provide eyeglasses to a billion poor people worldwide.

The U.S. Department of Defense has already purchases 20,000 pairs to give away in impoverished parts of Africa and Eastern Europe. Those glasses have an American flag and the words “from the people of the United States” engraved in small print on the side of the frames.

This is an imprinted giveaway at its best — providing something truly useful and underscoring a brand's value. In this case, the "brand" is the United States of America. And in an era where our country's reputation abroad has been tarnished by questionable policies and politics, an outreach program like this may help others see the United States in a positive new light.