World Health Organization Challenges Optometrists to Address Global Vision Care Deficiencies at Academy 2019

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ORLANDO—In its first presentation focusing on its new World Vision report, the World Health Organization (WHO) addressed thousands of vision care professionals here last week and challenged the group do more to improve vision care in underserved communities around the world. Dr. Alarcos Cieza of WHO, addressing a joint optometry session coinciding with Academy 2019,  asked the profession if it could do more to help improve the availability, affordability and quality of vision care in developing nations globally, according to an announcement about the session. (The World Council of Optometry and American Academy of Optometry (AAO) jointly hosted the special session in Orlando.)

Her address was the inaugural public presentation of the first ever World report on vision by WHO that identifies a profound need for potentially life-changing vision care among 2.2 billion people on the planet who suffer from vision problems, more than 1 billion of them with an impairment that could have been prevented or is yet to be addressed. VMAIL reported on the WHO report here

The report highlights disparities of care in developed and developing countries, in urban and rural centers, among younger and aging demographics and between affluent and impoverished populations.

“We hope the eyecare sector feels the same urgency for action that we at WHO feel,” Dr. Cieza said. “Eyecare is very, very often not part of a health care strategic plan.”

Tim McMahon, OD, FAAO, American Academy of Optometry board president-elect, said the organization accepts the challenge and will put its weight behind developing solutions, according to the announcement. “The optometric community has the opportunity and obligation to address the issues raised in the World Health Organization’s report. In the coming months, we will discuss how we can do that,” he said.

Scott Mundle, OD, president of the World Council of Optometry agreed with McMahon’s assessment. “We recognize the need that has been identified and as yet unmet. Optometry is well-positioned and prepared to work collaboratively towards a solution to these global eye health care issues.”

The WHO World report on vision also anticipates a growth in the number of people worldwide suffering from myopia or nearsightedness. In 2010 myopia affected approximately 27 percent of the world’s population. By 2050 with an aging population and a global increase in the incidence of diabetes, that number is expected to climb to 50 percent. The report identifies multiple reasons for the disparity such as inaccessibility of care including lack of universal health coverage, lack of integration into the health care system and in many countries, an uncoordinated and unregulated workforce.