June 2018

Development of Optometry Worldwide

Living in a country where there is access to care, it is sometimes hard to remember that everyone does not have this advantage. An eye exam to correct refractive error and detect sight-threatening conditions seems easy to access, but it is not always possible. Around the world, so many do not have this advantage due to lack of eyecare providers or inability to access this care. Optometrist are well suited to help fill this vast need. The World Council of Optometry (WCO) created a document called “Why Optometry?” in response to the World Health Organization’s Global Action Plan for the Prevention of Avoidable Blindness and Visual Impairment 2014-2019. This document can be found at https://worldcouncilofoptometry.info/why-optometry/. The WCO states: “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 focused 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.”

In addition, as optometrists, it would be hard if we were unable to practice using all our skills and knowledge that we acquired in our training to help our patients. There are many organizations working hard to increase the level of optometry training worldwide. These organizations are also working with local government to recognize the profession of optometry and enabling optometrist to provide care within the local healthcare systems.  

How can you help? Become a member and support organizations that are developing optometry schools and advocating for optometry as a profession around the world. Here are some of these organizations:

VOSH/International: http://vosh.org/

World Council of Optometry: https://worldcouncilofoptometry.info/

Brien Holden Vision Institute: https://www.brienholdenvision.org/

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness: https://www.iapb.org/

EYElliance: http://www.eyelliance.org/

Optometry Giving Sight: http://www.givingsight.org/

Tracy Matchinski, OD, FAAO, FVI

President VOSH/International

Updated COVID-19 and VOSH Humanitarian Clinics Advice

Due to an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 infections, a new variant that is more contagious, and these being early days in the vaccination distribution, VOSH/International DOES NOT recommend that chapters participate in domestic or international eye and vision clinics at this time.

We reiterate that at a time when the coronavirus continues to spread quickly in many parts of the world and vaccinations are not yet available to local populations, the risk of close contact with patients in a crowded outpatient environment remains high.

If a VOSH Chapter or VOSH volunteer chooses to hold a clinic against our best guidance, this is done at your own risk, by your own decision and should be in line with current local/national government rules.  VOSH/International would like to reiterate that safety for VOSH volunteers and our patients is of utmost importance and central to any decision-making process.

We have published our updated clinic guidelines with best practices to be observed in this new context.  You can download VOSH/International clinic guidelines here

Also please keep checking the following sites with official and most recent updates:

World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

US CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/when-to-delay-travel.html

US Government Travel Advise: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/COVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html

Thank you for your patience in these unprecedented times, hard work and dedication to improving vision and eye health throughout the world.

John Daniel Twelker, OD, PhD, FAAO, FVI

President, VOSH/International

January 2021