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Improving Eye Care and Transforming Lives in Mexico

New Business Call to Action member salauno to increase access to quality care for low-income people

Improving Eye Care and Transforming Lives in Mexico

New Business Call to Action member salauno to increase access to quality care for low-income people

Published 11-20-15

Submitted by Business Call to Action (BCtA)

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salauno, a provider of low-cost, high-quality ophthalmic care to Mexico’s mid- and low-income populations, has joined the Business Call to Action with a plan to increase the number of patients it treats each year and expand its reach in Latin America by 2020. BCtA is a global initiative that encourages companies to fight poverty through inclusive business models. It is supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other international organizations.

By leveraging the cost efficiencies of its ‘hub-and-spoke’ model, salauno aims to become Mexico’s leading provider of eye care by 2020 – serving 500,000 low-income patients with a full range of ophthalmic services – and perform 25,000 surgeries annually; this will require expanding the number of clinics and hospitals ten times. The increase in patients and facilities will enable the company to continue providing high-quality eye care at rates that are 40 percent below market.

“The link between poverty and health is one of the nation’s biggest challenges. A lack of access to quality ophthalmic care leaves thousands of poor Mexicans blind, impeding their ability to break the cycle of poverty. salauno wants to eliminate needless blindness in Mexico and transform the lives of our patients,” said Javier Okhuysen, salauno’s co-Chief Executive Officer. “Our goal is to become Latin America’s leading ophthalmology provider in mid-low income communities and we are honored to have our inclusive business recognized by the BCtA.”

Blindness is a serious health issue in Mexico. It is the second leading cause of disabilities and are often a result of cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. With 300,000 cases annually, cataracts account for 40 percent of all cases of blindness, but only 175,000 surgeries are performed each year. Diabetes affects 16 percent of Mexico’s adult population, one of the highest in the world; only 50 percent of people aware of their condition. As a result, approximately 30 percent of all cases of blindness in the country – approximately 9 million people – are due to diabetic retinopathy. Another 2 million are presumed to have cataracts but have not yet received treatment. These numbers are projected to increase along with the rising incidence of diabetes coupled with an aging population.

Both diabetes and cataracts are avoidable with early detection and proper treatment. But while cataract surgery is considered one of the safest and most cost-effective procedures in healthcare, Mexico has the lowest cataract surgery rate among all OECD countries at 1.7 million per year – well below the minimal acceptable rate of 3.5 million per year set by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to WHO, Mexicans have already lost 55,000 healthy years as a result of blindness among poor people, and the number continues to grow.

These statistics have driven salauno’s management to build an inclusive business focusing on people living at the base of the economic pyramid. Their research determined that patients were willing to pay the equivalent of one month’s income for cataract surgery. Most providers charge up to five times the average monthly income, thus reaching only 35 percent of the population. The other 65 percent have been forced to seek other options, including the public health system, where cataract surgery waiting lists can exceed 11 months.

salauno’s first clinics were located in mid- and low-income, high-density areas of Mexico City, where other healthcare is inaccessible or unaffordable. In its first four years, salauno saw more than 100,000 patients and performed 12,000 surgeries – 5,000 of them were performed free of charge through cross subsides, government and social partners support. More than 30 percent of patients came from households earning less than $899 per year.

As it grew, salauno adapted best practices from India’s renowned Aravind Eye Care System, one of the world’s largest eye care facilities and a recognized leader in compassionate care. Standardized procedures designed by a team of skilled professionals optimize each practitioner’s strengths and ensure that doctors are able to focus exclusively on patient treatment. As a result, salauno is able to charge 40 percent below the market rate and its surgeons perform five times more procedures than the average ophthalmologist in Mexico. 

salauno is on track to open a 3,000 m2 hospital in Mexico City by mid 2016 and nine diagnostic clinics by the end of 2016. By 2020, the company expects to replicate its model in five different cities in Mexico. The company and its shareholders (IFC and ADOBE Capital) are funding the expansion, and salauno expects each clinic to be sustainable after five months. In addition, in 2016 the company aims to host 200 diabetic retinopathy and cataract ‘outreach camps’ for Mexico’s poorest people.  

“Accessible and affordable healthcare is a vital contributor to social and economic development at the base of the economic pyramid. salauno’s inclusive business model is a wonderful example of the private sector’s ability to tackle the challenge of affordable care for the benefit of both the company and its patients,” said Sahba Sobhani, BCtA Acting Manager. “We welcome Salauno’s membership in the BCtA and look forward to learning from and working with them.”

Learn more about salauno: 

About Business Call to Action (BCtA): The Business Call to Action challenges companies to advance core business activities that are inclusive of poor populations and contribute to the achievement of sustainable development goals.  Worldwide, 110 companies, from SMEs to multinationals, have responded to the BCtA by making commitments to improve the lives and livelihoods of millions through commercially-viable business ventures that engage low-income people as consumers, producers, suppliers, and distributors of goods and services.

 The Business Call to Action is a unique multilateral alliance between key donor governments including the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)UK Department for International Development (DFID), US Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Finland, and the United Nations Development Programme — which hosts the secretariat — in collaboration with leading global institutions, such as the United Nations Global Compact, and the Inter-American Development Bank’s Opportunities for the Majority Initiative. For more information, please visit or on Twitter at @BCtAInitiative.


About Salauno

salauno was founded in 2011 by Carlos Orellana and Javier Okhuysen. The organization´s mission is to “Eliminate needless blindness in Mexico”. salauno is a for profit social enterprise whose commitment is to provide high-quality low-cost ophthalmic health services. It expects to have high social and economic impact, through personalized, high-quality and accessible services. In less than four years salauno has seen more than 100,000 patients and performed more than 12,000 surgeries. Currently the company provides a full range of ophthalmic services, e.g. cataract surgery, retina, oculoplastic, cornea and glaucoma.

salauno has been recognized by multiple organizations around the globe. It is supported by the Aravind Eye Care System (the biggest eye care health system in the world), the Shwabb Foundation recognized salauno with the “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” award at the World Economic Forum 2015 and the Mexican Ministry of Economy awarded it with the “National Entrepreneur” award in 2014.  

Business Call to Action (BCtA) logo

Business Call to Action (BCtA)

Business Call to Action (BCtA)

Business Call to Action is a global joint advocacy platform that works to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by challenging and supporting companies to develop inclusive business models that offer the potential for both commercial success and development impact. It is hosted by the United Nations Development Programme and funded by Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, UK Department for International Development (DFID). To date, 230 companies from around the world have signed on to commit to contribute to the SDGs, from large multinational companies to national and small- and medium-enterprises in 70 countries.

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