GLOBAL OPTOMETRY DEVELOPMENT
Many developing countries do not have optometry as an established profession. Optometry courses offering education at diploma or degree level often do not exist. To address this gap in trained professionals and increase access to services by building a workforce, we develop and support optometry schools globally.
What is optometry development?
Many developing countries do not have optometry as an established or recognised profession which means optometry schools offering a diploma or degree level education, often do not exist. Our strategy to address this global need includes the development and support of optometry schools globally. We work together with tertiary institutions and ministries of health and education to develop and establish the profession of optometry in these countries.
Our support for the development of the optometry schools includes advice on curriculum, working to enhance infrastructure and providing educational resources. We also facilitate ongoing funding and provide assistance in recruiting and developing new faculty, often having been integral in the training of the eye care professionals recruited as the primary educators for the course.
Why is it important?
In developed countries, optometrists are the primary healthcare practitioners of the eye and visual system who provide comprehensive eye and vision care, which includes refraction and dispensing of spectacles, or contact lenses, detection and management of disease in the eye, and the rehabilitation of eye conditions.
In the developing context there is a predominating shortage of optometrists and therefore a lack of eye care services, meaning communities are not able to access eye examinations or correctly prescribed spectacles. This impact on people’s lives and the economic cost to the communities and countries affected is considerable.
Globally we know there are more than 1.2 billion people who are blind or vision impaired simply because they don’t have access to an eye examination and a pair of glasses. For these billions with uncorrected vision impairment, a skilled optometrist who can provide an eye examination, determine the spectacle prescription needed, dispense glasses or refer appropriately, is potentially a life-changing service.
Our Optometry Development Program
Our global optometry development program has been running in some regions for close to a decade. Educating people at tertiary level is a long process, and producing graduates which can in turn continue their academic journey and become faculty staff for the emerging profession in each institution takes even longer. Yet this is a critical component of creating optometry as a self-sustaining profession in each country.
We began working in collaboration with partners and government in the Africa region in 2008 and currently in that region we support ten optometry schools, at either diploma and/or degree level in eight countries; Cameroon, Eritrea, Gambia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique and Uganda.
In the Western Pacific region we support two optometry schools in Vietnam and are assisting in the situational analysis for an optometry school in China. In the Americas region, we support optometry schools in Nicaragua and Haiti, and we are assisting in the emergence of a school in Mexico. In the European region we are part of the consortium of the first optometry school in Moldova, and assisting in the preliminary discussions around a potential optometry school in Russia.