Investments to Help Develop Global Models for Delivering Eye Care to the Poor
(PRWEB) November 5, 2009 -- Acumen Fund, a nonprofit venture capital firm that invests in entrepreneurs who are building businesses to serve the poor, announced today two new investments, Pushpagiri Vitreo Retina Institute (PVRI) in India and Upper Hill Eye and Laser Centre (UHEAL) in Kenya, both of which provide advanced eye care services to the poor. PVRI and UHEAL provide access for all to specialized eye care services and operate mobile outreach units that conduct eye camps to screen for diabetic retinopathy, a disease that leads to blindness if left undiagnosed and untreated.
Acumen Fund’s USD 2,000,000 investment in PVRI through Pushpagiri Health Care Hospitals Pvt. Ltd. will enable the business to build two additional hospitals and expand its reach to approximately 50% of Andhra Pradesh, India’s fifth most populous state with 75 million people. Acumen Fund’s USD 300,000 investment in UHEAL will provide the burgeoning business with the necessary funding to purchase specialized eye equipment and meet working capital costs.
“PVRI and UHEAL exemplify Acumen Fund’s continued commitment to invest in scalable businesses that provide critical goods and services to the world’s poor,” said Acumen Fund CEO Jacqueline Novogratz. “Both will teach us valuable lessons about how best to deliver eye care services to low-income communities as we seek to build a global model to provide sight-saving services to consumers at the base of the economic pyramid.”
Loss of eye sight has a tremendous economic and social impact on low-income families, eliminating the ability of at least one person to earn an income and often requiring substantial assistance from at least one other family member. The prevalence of blindness is partly a symptom of underlying development challenges of nutrition and lack of access to health care, particularly preventative care.
“Blindness often has devastating economic impacts on poor families in India, so with our investment in PVRI through Pushpagiri Health Care Hospitals Pvt. Ltd, Acumen Fund is looking to support organizations that are helping prevent blindness by providing more widespread access to treatment and encouraging preventative care,” said Varun Sahni, Acumen Fund’s India Director. “Having two investments with similar models for delivering advanced eye care to the poor creates a unique opportunity for collaboration, and we look forward to sharing best practices across geographies as we work to bring these solutions to scale.”
PVRI was founded with the philosophy of “an eye for affordable services,” focusing primarily on diabetic blindness, childhood blindness and corneal blindness, apart from existing causes of blindness due to cataracts and glaucoma. Its central hospital located at Secunderabad is used as a hub, with outreach clinics, screening and treatment camps serving as spokes to maximize its reach and ensure that its services are accessible to rural markets. Since its inception in 2007, PVRI has treated more than 25,000 patients, performed over thousands of surgeries and I.P. procedures, and conducted over 100 comprehensive eye care camps in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
Similarly, in Kenya, UHEAL mobile eye units will operate fifteen eye camps a year to screen for diabetic retinopathy and provide non-invasive procedures, eye examinations, follow-up care, and laser treatment at an affordable rate for low-income communities. UHEAL and Acumen will experiment with different pricing models to find the right balance between financial sustainability and social impact, while PVRI will subsidize eye care to low-income communities by charging higher margins to high-income customers.
Dr. Kibata Githeko, an ophthalmologist specializing in pediatrics and retina care, founded UHEAL based on his experience as a doctor working at PCEA Kikuyu eye centre, one of the major eye care hospital facilities in Kenya, where there is a two-month wait for an appointment and a two-to-four month wait for surgery. Often, a wait of such duration causes a condition to worsen until it becomes inoperable, leading to irreversible loss of sight. Dr. Githeko watched his father go blind from diabetic retinopathy. UHEAL will work to help prevent that from happening to others through its services, mobile eye units and training.
“Tackling loss of sight due to diabetes in low-income communities before irreversible damage occurs is challenging because patients generally do not identify the problem early enough and often seek treatment after it is too late,” said Biju Mohandas, Acumen Fund’s East Africa Manager. “UHEAL and Acumen seek to intervene in this cycle with new solutions, and we look forward to sharing our lessons learned with the world.”
To learn more about Acumen Fund, PVRI and UHEAL, and to follow PVRI and UHEAL’s progress, visit www.acumenfund.org.
About Acumen Fund
Acumen Fund is a nonprofit venture fund that invests in market-oriented approaches to deliver critical, affordable goods and services to the world’s poor. Acumen Fund focuses on the convergence of philanthropic capital and business expertise to produce sustainable, scalable enterprises that reach underserved markets and increase access to the opportunities of the global economy. Acumen Fund’s average investments range from $300,000 to $2 million in size. Acumen Fund has been investing in India and East Africa since 2001, focusing on a wide range of sustainable, scalable businesses that use market-based approaches to deliver products and services to millions of rural and urban poor. Investments made by Acumen Fund India in local enterprises include high-quality maternal and pediatric healthcare services; safe water for consumption and livelihood; and clean energy. Investments made by Acumen Fund East Africa in local enterprises include a manufacturer of insecticide-treated bednets that are providing protection against malaria to millions of Africans; public sanitation facilities in Kenya’s underserved urban centers; microfranchises for quality healthcare and drug distribution; and a microfinance institution that is creating affordable, legal housing for former slum-dwellers. For more information on Acumen Fund’s activities and investments, visit www.acumenfund.org and www.acumenfundblog.org.
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