Optometry = possibility.
By: Hasan Minto, Director of Programs, Our Children’s Vision
As eye care professionals, we all know that current efforts to address child eye health needs are falling far too short. Refractive errors, for example, are simple and cost effective to fix yet they continue to negatively affect the lives of millions of children worldwide.
In reality, there is a myriad of reasons why care is unavailable or inaccessible - the small numbers of skilled heath care professionals, an uneven distribution of resources, or a lack in confidence to be a proactive provider of care. One of these factors is enough to disrupt effective care to children; in many places, we are finding all three.
But on World Optometry Day, I am encouraged that as optometrists, as eye care professionals, we have the knowledge and expertise to create a huge impact - on policies, on economies and on lives.
For example, school health programs are revolutionizing the approach to child health care worldwide. If we can integrate eye health into already existing systems, then we will be reaching more children than ever before. Simply adding a service to an already strong health program will pay huge dividends.
In Pakistan, the school health approach to providing eye care has been a great success. The Brien Holden Vision Institute, along with the Azad Jammu and Kashmir governments is implementing a school eye-health program. Each year, it provides eye health services to thousands of children enrolled in the public education system.
It is thinking like this that will help propel optometry, and eye care, into other health streams and ensure more children receive comprehensive care. It allows health providers to stretch their minimal resources to reach maximum numbers. Offering eye health services alongside dental, nutrition and worming checks seems like a no brainer.
Another no brainer is working together to achieve more. Our Children’s Vision is bringing together over 60 organisations, to date, under one common goal – eye care for children. The belief is that no child’s education opportunity should be compromised simply because they cannot access an eye exam. The mission is so much more than reaching the 50 million target by 2020. We want to impact policy, create waves. Make governments stand up and take notice that eye care is important – it is worth investing in.
The fact is that if we are to make great strides we need to act now. Myopia is increasingly more important. When we consider that 90 to 95% of vision impairment, in the 5-15 age group, is due to myopia it is a major public health issue that is only predicted to increase in scale.
Today is a day for all optometrist to reflect on the impact they can have. How we can reach more patients, more efficiently, more cost effectively. It is important because there are children out there who cannot access a simple eye exam, and we all know the consequences of that.
Hasan Minto is the Director of child eye health and Low vision Programs at the Brien Holden Vision Institute. He is also Director of Programs for Our Children’s Vision.
For those who are interested in more about school eye-health programs and how to establish them, a detailed set of guidelines are available that outline best practice and process. You can download here.
This article was originally published on IAPB Blog.