Why Optometry? has been produced by the World Council of Optometry (WCO) in response to the World Health Organisation’s Global Action Plan for the Prevention of Avoidable Blindness and Visual Impairment 2014-2019.
Links to both English and Spanish versions are available at left.
It provides the case for delivering high quality, advanced and equitable eye health and vision care for patients worldwide.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 285 million people suffer from moderate to severe vision loss with 39 million considered blind. Of these, 123 million (43%) have uncorrected distance refractive errors.
In addition, there are 517 million people with near vision impairment due to uncorrected presbyopia. Uncorrected refractive error is the leading cause of visual impairment globally which places a financial burden on the economy, is a significant contributing factor to poverty and is avoidable.
There are significant challenges for eye health with the increasing avoidable blindness and visual impairment. These include insufficient competent healthcare professionals, uneven distribution of resources and the inability to afford treatment. In order to meet the aims of the Global Action Plan, there must be a focus on the development of human resources, including optometrists, and models of sustainable service delivery.
Optometry answers these challenges by providing a range of diagnostic, technical and direct patient care and support services required by patients and other health care professions. It has increasingly focussed on universal health coverage; providing accessible, equitable and affordable eye health services to all and shifting from a predominantly private sector orientation to a public sector one as well. Optometry functions in a primary care capacity in many developed countries and in developing countries at a secondary level as part of a multidisciplinary team including doctors and ophthalmologists.
To support the development of optometric education, the WCO has developed a Global Competency-Based Model of Scope of Practice in Optometry that provides a vertical career ladder for individuals seeking to expand their scope of clinical responsibility. This will also help regulatory bodies guarantee practitioners’ competence to protect the public and act as a stimulus for creating greater uniformity of optometric practice worldwide by being applied to teaching curriculums.
Optometric education and the practice of optometry have developed differently and at different rates around the world. Optometric education is provided in major research universities, as well as in independent schools and colleges of optometry. WCO encourages and helps to develop optometric education and facilitates the reviews of education providers by external agencies.
To meet present and future challenges, a paradigm shift is needed in the way optometry approaches the delivery of eye care services delivery. WCO believes that an optometrist should possess the skills and competencies to perform eye examinations, prescribe spectacles, diagnose and treat common eye problems, and refer more serious conditions. WCO believes that optometrists should be integrated within the eye care, and wider health care team.