- Category: Global Eye Care
A severe shortage of eye care providers is creating unnecessary blindness and vision impairment in developing communities worldwide. For the millions with vision impairment caused by uncorrected refractive error, a skilled practitioner available locally to determine the spectacle prescription needed and dispense glasses is potentially a life-changing service.
Human resource development involves the establishment of culturally appropriate education programs to produce eye care professionals and other supporting personnel. This process lies at the heart of all Brien Holden Vision Institute Foundation programs – increasing the number of optometrists, optometric and spectacle technicians, refractionists, eye care health workers and vision centre staff – to help provide eye care services where they are most needed.
In many developing communities, someone with poor vision may initially have this detected at a school, community health centre or eye clinic. Teachers and nurses working at a community level to conduct basic vision screening, are able to provide a referral path to an optometrist or other eye health professionals for an eye examination. If local eye care services are available, once they are prescribed the correct glasses the patient can visit a vision centre, staffed with local skilled personnel, to either custom-make or provide ready-made glasses at an affordable rate or in some cases free of cost. The result for the patient is a life with improved vision, health, education and economic opportunities.
Through human resource development the Foundation envisages accessible, equitable and good quality eye care for all people. This is achieved by establishing optometric education systems conducive to increasing the numbers of relevant personnel integral to establishing comprehensive eye care systems in many developing communities long term.
Furthermore, by educating optometry teachers, we are assisting the development of local optometry leadership to build and maintain programs and healthy education institutions, thereby increasing the likelihood that these institutions will flourish beyond our involvement.
Upscaling the global workforce
Developing a skilled workforce helps achieve global optometric development in the interest of public health. Through a range of education courses – from optometry degrees to short courses up-skilling health care workers – different skills are learnt from the community level upwards, offering scope for professional development of personnel and further career opportunities.
Education at the primary level
We train health workers and teachers to conduct vision screenings in some settings – schools for example, so they can identify when a vision disorder may be present in children and refer them for appropriate treatment through referral.
Refraction, technical and optometric education
We deliver instruction in refraction, eye examinations and low vision assessment through specialised short courses. In every location there are a range of individuals who further develop their skills through our short course instruction; these include ophthalmic professionals, optometric technicians, and community eye health workers.
Vision centre management
To ensure the everyday running of our vision centres is efficient and working towards sustainability, we run workshops for administrative staff and spectacle technicians. There is much diversity in the locations in which we work, so we adapt our vision centre model appropriately to ensure daily running is culturally productive. In some locations personnel operate through health facilities such as local hospitals or clinics which are already established.
Faculty development through education
We train eye care educators, enabling education to be conducted and sustained at a local level. This helps build local capacity offering communities the opportunity for the development of tertiary level education, which in turn ensures a continued generation of skilled eye care personnel.
Optometry school development
Our strategy includes the development and support of optometry schools globally. Many developing countries do not have optometry schools and where they exist some require extensive support. In particular, we advise with curriculum and infrastructure enhancement, provide educational resources and delivery support and assist with faculty recruitment and development.
Online Optometry Resources
One of the stumbling blocks for emerging optometry schools is limited access to teaching and learning resources, which is why we’ve expanded our online resources. Our Global Optometry Resource offers optometry modules that educators can utilise for teaching and course development. This has been developed by the Foundation and made available to existing and newly established optometry schools across the world.
Additionally, a series of downloadable resources for other levels of eye care education are available, including:
Human resource development is helping to implement culturally appropriate education programmes on a global scale to train eye care professionals and other skilled eye care workers.
Existing optometry schools in parts of Africa, China, India, the Middle East and Latin America require fundamental support for their framework and education. We work closely with governments to encourage the effective deployment of optometry graduates – into the public sector where the need is greatest. In Africa, we’ve assisted optometry schools in Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, and in Kenya and Eritrea, optometrists and optometric technicians are currently being trained.
Our newly established office in Colombia, Latin America will actively seek to support emerging optometry programs and in Vietnam we are currently developing of the first optometry school in the country. The same applies to the Eastern Mediterranean region where an office formally opened in Pakistan in 2011. Across the border in India, the Institute and Foundation have been closely involved in efforts, transforming the optometry landscape, to build the systems and generate the human resources necessary to service a population of more than one billion.
Working with industry in Australia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Philippines, Thailand, India and China we are also striving to improve optometry standards through our professional education activities aimed at optometry practitioners.