International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”   #IWD2019 #BalanceforBetter https://www.internationalwomensday.com/

Since 1911, March 8th has marked International Women’s Day.  VOSH/International celebrates women’s achievements in the profession and their contribution to the important work we do.  Optometry is a profession that is changing along gender lines across the world.   When I graduated from the Illinois College of Optometry in 1995, my graduating class marked the first time in the college’s 123-year history that the graduation class had more women than men.  In the USA, the 2015 job task analysis carried out by the American Board of Optometry had 45% female respondents and with about two thirds of students enrolled in optometry school being female, this gender shift trend will continue.  However at leadership and decision making levels women’s presence is still under-represented.  VOSH/International is proud to continue working towards a good balance of female representation and leadership within its structures but it recognises that there is still some way to go.

During our community clinics we are constantly reminded of the unequal access to eye care services experienced by vulnerable groups especially women and girls across the world.   It is estimated that of the 253 million people in the world who are visually impaired, 55% are women (139 million). Some contributing factors include women living longer than men and therefore more at risk of eye conditions as they age. In many developing countries women and girls face more difficulties accessing eye health services due to economic or cultural factors such as lack of information due to illiteracy or their inability to travel unaccompanied just to mention a few.

On this International Women’s Day let us take a moment to remember that women as optometrists or as patients require equal access to opportunities and services that enable them to thrive.  VOSH/International’s commitment to facilitate the provision and the sustainability of vision care worldwide for people who can neither afford nor obtain such care has special resonance on this important day.

Tracy Matchinski, OD, FAAO, FVI

President, VOSH/International

 

 

 

 

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Updated COVID-19 and VOSH Humanitarian Clinics Advice

VOSH/International recently consulted its US and International Chapters about the feasibility and timing to restart our humanitarian clinics. While the vaccination process continues with different levels of success depending on availability and acceptance, it is evident that vaccine inequity and the availability and reliability of data in several countries are issues we need to consider.

Even if already vaccinated, our chapters are still concerned about the wellbeing of our volunteers and patients.  Some chapters, are organizing clinics locally where they are better able to comply with the existing safety requirements and respective state/country regulations.

The COVID-19 pandemic is being experienced quite differently depending on state, region, country, vaccine availability, vaccine acceptance, and the spread of SARS-COV-2 variants. Most VOSH chapters are not holding clinics or traveling internationally in 2021.

Thus, VOSH/International is slightly moderating its overall guidance against clinics and travel issued in late March 2020 and renewed in January 2021. This will be reviewed and communicated on a quarterly basis.

If a VOSH Chapter choses to hold a clinic or travel internationally, we highly recommend that the chapter performs due diligence to comply fully with the requirements established by the visited country, ensures all VOSH volunteers are aware of and follow strict safety guidelines and all existing protocols and regulations of the country, and keeps the principle of “do no harm” embedded in all its decision making. As always, the wellbeing and 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. VOSH chapters in specific countries are using protocols that need to be considered as well. You can download VOSH/International clinic guidelines here.

*VOSH/International is formed by autonomous US and international chapters that are fully and only responsible for their activities, fundraising and decision-making.  VOSH/International can only provide recommendations based on our best knowledge and information at the time.

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 hard work and dedication to improving vision and eye health throughout the world.

John Daniel Twelker, OD, PhD, FAAO, FVI

President, VOSH/International

July 2021