Optometry doesn’t play a great enough role in the long-term management of chronic disease globally. Eyecare practitioners must do more to bring eye health into public health strategic plans and deconstruct the silo that so often surrounds eye care.
This was the message from the American Academy of Optometry 2019’s plenary session in Orlando. Guest speakers from the World Health Organization (WHO) presented major points from the recently released 2019 World Report on Vision. The report’s findings and its implications for optometry were explored by Alarcos Cieza, PhD, from the WHO Kovin Naidoo, OD, PhD, FAAO, and Sandra Block, OD, MPH, FAAO.
World Vision Report
Dr. Cieza says that the WHO recently released its 2019 World Report on Vision, a collection of research meant to share insights and strategies on the current state of optical health globally.
The report estimates that there are at least 2.2 billion people globally with a vision impairment. While optometrists are well-acquainted with the prevalence of common ocular diseases, these concerns take on a new context when viewed from a national perspective.
The WHO reports that 196 million people have age-related macular degeneration (AMD) across the world—more than half of the entire U.S. population.
“The significance of these numbers is that they proclaim the huge need for eye care around the world,” Dr. Cieza says.
An increased demand for eyecare services will force practitioners to confront current challenges related to care access, like physician shortages. These concerns are compounded by the fact that populations in lower-income areas are at higher risk for vision impairment-related problems.
To manage this, optometrists should reflect on their interventions and consider how new strategies could be applied. In particular, better service coordination will be key.
“What we see is that there is a huge amount of services provided by the private sector without any kind of coordination,” she says. “Knowledge is not shared.”
Better coordination means, in part, examining which services need to be provided and reviewing the costs of those services. This is a crucial part of providing quality eye care to patients without the burden of undue financial hardship.
There is an urgency for action because we have a window of opportunity,” she says.”
The WHO has established specific targets for achieving improved health outcomes by 2030. To accomplish these targets, the report recommends that eyecare providers take specific actions towards progress:
• Make eye care a part of universal health coverage
• Implement integrated people-centered eye care in health systems
• Promote high-quality research that tells the full story of eye care
• Monitor trends and evaluate progress
“We hope that the eyecare sector feels the same urgency for action that we at the WHO feel,” Dr. Cieza says.