Nearly 285 million people worldwide have a visual impairment, and according to the World Health Organization 80 per cent of those are preventable.

Vision correction is an economic issue.  Nine out of every ten people with low vision live in the developing world.

By far the biggest reason for low vision is refractive error, an issue that can be corrected with eyeglasses but for many people in the third world, a visit to see an eye doctor is impossible.

A Calgary based optometrist, Dr. Allan W. Jones, is doing his part to improve vision throughout the world.

For the past 25 years, Dr. Jones has donated his expertise to assist people in developing countries see their world more clearly.

In October, Jones headed a team of Canadian optometrists travelling to northern Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world.

The population of Malawi is approximately 16 million but the country in southeastern Africa has no optometrists.

Very few Malawians wear eyeglasses although many require them to see.

Malawi has started training its own optometrists, although none are currently qualified to practice.

On their October trip, the team led by Dr. Jones worked closely with students from Mzuzu University, teaching the future doctors to diagnose vision concerns and to learn the trade.

On this outreach, as on many Dr. Jones has put together, Dr. Paul Geneau, the president elect of the Canadian Association of Optometrists, joined the cause.

To help the Malawian optometrists with training, Dr. Jones donated money to build a training academy connected to the local hospital.  When it opens, the academy will be a frontline training facility.       

Dr. Jones has worked with Canadian Vision Care, a non-profit group based in Calgary.  He has done considerable work helping third world people in the Caribbean and around the world with their vision.

Dr. Jones, a member of the Bonavista Eye Clinic, is this week’s Inspiring Albertan.