World Optometry Week begins

President of the World Council of Optometry, Dr Sandra Block, started the week with a letter for the profession, celebrating work achieved, and the role of optometry in access to care

A blue graphic of an arm clad in a suit jacket holding a megaphone with a large white speech bubble emerging
Pixabay/Mohamed Hassan

World Optometry Week 2024, 17–23 March, has kicked off with the theme of Advancing optometry’s commitment to global eye care.

The campaign is organised by the World Council of Optometry (WCO) and celebrates the work of optometry professionals around the world.

Dr Sandra Block, WCO president, launched the week with a statement reminding optometrists “that we as a profession contribute to the importance of addressing the growing prevalence of vision and eye health problems by providing high quality eye care.”

“We need to continue to share that optometry is a primary healthcare profession that works toward achieving better access, affordability, equity, and equality for eye health and vision care as human rights,” she said.

Block celebrated the accomplishments of the profession in playing a role to increase access to eye healthcare.

Awareness of the importance of addressing access to eye care has grown since the launch of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Report on Vision, she said, while resolutions within the World Health Assembly and the United Nations created calls to action for integrating patient-centred eye care.

Several initiatives have been formed that position optometry as part of the solution, and WCO has been part of the conversation, Block wrote.

The WHO Eye Care Competency Framework is “one of the steps forward,” she suggested.

The framework has been designed to describe the competencies needed at all levels of eye care and optometry was involved in the development of the document along with other representatives in eye care.

WCO has developed an updated curriculum framework to detail the domains optometrists would have covered in their professional education, with the expectation of lifelong learning. The WCO Competency Framework for Optometry will be officially launched on 20 March.

“The goal of these documents includes helping to reduce the large discrepancy of human resources in remote areas along with other underserved regions,” Block said, adding that lack of access occurs in low, middle, and high-income settings.

She explained: “In a low- and middle-income setting, the focus needs to be on how to not only increase the numbers of optometrists, but also in the development of a continuum of care that reaches out to the individuals who do not have access due to disability, transportation, or awareness, along with other barriers to care.”

“While in high-income settings, the same barriers may exist, but the solutions are often different. It is hoped that whatever setting a clinician is working in, there are opportunities to effect change with respect to scope of practice, recognition of the contributions of optometry that can help solve access, or offering care to those who are often forgotten,” Block continued.

The WHO SPECS 2030 initiative aims to improve effective coverage of uncorrected refractive error, and Block commented: “We are looking forward to optometry being actively engaged in the models to improve coverage.”

Bringing the statement to a close, Block emphasised that many vision and eye health problems do not occur in isolation and can be found as a comorbidity, or the first sign of a systemic disease process.

“Receiving care even before there are signs or symptoms can improve overall health outcomes,” Block said, concluding: “Even problems that are solely visual, if addressed early, can yield better functional outcomes, including refractive problems. Starting the process with health promotion, ensuring our patients are knowledgeable and think about prevention and not simply addressing problems after they emerge, can improve quality of life.”