World Council of Optometry puts eyecare for children in focus

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on January 10, 2018

The most striking part of any child’s dream of becoming a sportsperson, astronaut, moonwalker or president is his or her ambition. But, the key to all those ambitions is a good education, which is difficult without good eyesight. This is the firm belief of the World Council of Optometry (WCO).

In a global mission to supplement the efforts of children, the WCO has been supporting 'Our Children’s Vision’- an initiative of the Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI), Sydney and the global eyecare major Essilor Vision for Life. It is supported by 63 partners, who together aim to ensure that 50 million children gain access to the eyecare they need by 2020.

Further, the emphasis is also to see that eye health programmes are integrated into school health programmes, and that there is increased awareness of the risk of myopia on children’s vision. According to Brien Holden of BHVI, “Every seven-year-old when going to school should take along a certificate from his or her optometrist saying, “I have had my eyes examined, I’m OK, I can see”.

The WCO’s President-elect, Scott Mundle, a noted optometrist from the US and also a hobby marathon runner, says his top priority is to channelise the energies of the global body towards reducing vision problems amongst the millions of children.

India, China, Africa and other developing nations have this daunting challenge and there is an urgency to tackle the issue. “Our focus will be on increasing access to comprehensive eyecare and not just screening children,” Mundle told BusinessLine on the sidelines of the ongoing 2nd World Congress of Optometry here today.

The World Council has brought together optometrists, healthcare workers, corporates in eyecare and non-government organisations to give a thrust to the programme. In countries such as India, China and the African nations, the emphasis will be on increasing awareness among communities and improving the level of education among optometrists, who can identify the problem early among children and provide corrective measures, he said.

The theme of the conference is ‘Accessible, quality vision and eye health’, which ties in with the WHO’s ‘Universal Eye Health: A global action plan 2014-2019’. The plan aims to reduce the prevalence of avoidable visual impairment by 25 per cent by 2019 from 285 million now. WCO envisions accomplishing this by placing a strong and equitable eye health system within which optometry plays a valuable and essential role.

The outgoing President of WCO, Uduak Udom, said India has and should take the lead on this front as it is seeing great developments on all fronts, including strides in optometry and vision care delivery.

Despite the strides achieved in India, the shortage of optometrists is rather high. Of the required 150,000 for the population, there are only 40,000 trained specialists, experts at the conference reiterated.

Published on September 12, 2017

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