India is a country bursting with knowledge and resources. It is still, however, developing its capacity to provide available access to eye care due to its massive population.
Australia and India have enjoyed a unique relationship in the area of eye research, education and public health for more than 20 years, serving to advance research ideas, knowledge, the standards of graduate and postgraduate students and eye care practitioners. The interactions have forged a strong and highly valued friendship, which has come to the fore in recent efforts to transform the optometry profession in India.
History of collaboration
In 1978, Professor Brien Holden met ophthalmologist and researcher, Dr Gullapalli ‘Nag’ Rao, the founder of L V Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI). When Dr Rao began developing a new type of research and clinical care organisation in the 1980s, this relationship flourished. During this period Professor Holden and colleagues helped LVPEI develop its clinical research capabilities, mobilising millions of dollars in funding and links between LVPEI and global industry partners.
The Brien Holden Vision Institute, along with LV Prasad Eye Institute, has been instrumental in supporting a new way forward in building optometric services for the 456 million people in India needing vision correction. This includes developing comprehensive eye care systems better providing for the estimated 133 million, including 11 million children, who are blind or vision impaired simply because they don’t have access to an eye examination and a pair of glasses.
LVPEI was a participant in the Cooperative Research Centre for Eye Research and Technology (CRCERT) – founded by Professor Holden and colleagues in 1991 – and one of the first of the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centres programs. CRCERT, and the Vision Cooperative Research Centre (Vision CRC) that followed, brought together international partners to collaborate on the development of breakthrough science and products in vision correction, stimulating further flow of resources back to its Indian partner.
Exchanges between CRCERT and LVPEI included further research into contact lens development and ocular health, basic research into conditions such as myopia, novel vision correction devices for the correction of presbyopia and research into the delivery of eye care to people in need. A postgraduate program offered high level research training for talented Indian students creating a stream of graduates that further strengthened the relationship between the two countries.
In 2003, LVPEI became a core partner alongside the Brien Holden Vision Institute in the Vision CRC based in Sydney. Vision CRC which had projects developing novel treatments for myopia, continued the pursuit of a ‘cure’ for presbyopia, further contact lens development and programs for vision care delivery to people in need.
LVPEI has worked closely with the Brien Holden Vision Institute Public Health Division in the development of educational programs to support this work, including establishing the Bausch and Lomb School of Optometry in Hyderabad. The school trains students from throughout Asia, in order to increase and improve eye care services, and also conducts research in optometry to improve the standard of eye care practices in India and Asia.
Delhi Declaration - changing optometry and the eye care landscape
In early 2010, leaders from the Indian optometric community, global specialists and representatives from the Institute gathered in Delhi to devise a comprehensive plan of action for the development of eye care services in India, which was cemented through the signing of the historic Delhi Declaration.
To provide the necessary vision care to its population, India needs 115,000 optometrists. To achieve this the Institute estimates that India will need a minimum of 100 schools of optometry offering a four year course, 1,000 optometric educators, 5,000 new optometry graduates per year and to up-skill the 42,500 personnel working at various levels of optometry at present. This is an ambitious and vast undertaking for the profession to take on.
First steps in addressing this mighty challenge were taken in January 2011, with the launch of the Indian Optometry Federation. The Federation was established as a unifying force for the profession in India, bringing the major optometry associations together with the purpose of achieving a recognised and regulated profession. The Institute is proud to have played an integral part in the development of the Indian Optometry Federation and continues to provide crucial support and expertise.
India Vision Institute launched
Other strategies are now being launched to significantly increase the numbers of trained optometrists. With momentum generated from the Delhi Declaration, the Indian Vision Institute (IVI) was established. Launched by the Institute and LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, the IVI is building India’s capacity to train eye care professionals through the education of teachers and academic staff. With support from the Institute, the IVI is stimulating research, increasing effectiveness of optometric education and invigorating India’s vision industry.
The public health division has delivered 4 EyeTeach programs to better equip optometry educators in India with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to promote student centred learning. To date the EyeTeach program has been delivered to 86 educators from 45 schools of optometry across India.
In the past, there has been no regulatory body to oversee the practice and training of optometrists in India. The Optometry Council of India is a a national self-regulating body to accredit optometry schools and practitioners through the implementation of a common minimum optometry competency evaluation system, and assessment for each level of training, as well as continuing professional development for practicing optometrists. The Institute has been central to the establishment of the Council, providing expertise in the registration and development of the rules and regulations.
Overall, the objective of our work is to help support the establishment of a thriving eye care industry that can adequately service India’s massive population. We are proud to see these strategies begin to formulate and make eye care for all in India a very real, possibility.
LV Prasad Eye Institute, India Vision Institute, Indian Optometry Federation, Optometry Council of India and Association of Schools and Colleges India
Optometry Giving Sight
- Population: India is the second most populated country in the world with 1,220,800,359
- Area: 2,973,193 sq km
- Geography: Plains in the south, flat to rolling land along the world famous Ganges, deserts in west, and the majestic Himalayas mountain range in north
- Industries include: A large textiles industry as well as computer software, steel, transportation equipment, cement, mining and machinery manufacturing
- Communication: India has emerged as one of the fastest growing telecom markets in the world; total telephone subscribership base approached 900 million in 2011, an overall teledensity exceeding 65%
- Transport: Extensive road, freeways and rail networks across the nation, India has over three million kilometres of paved roadways
*Based on information from www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook