As I return home from this first World Congress, I can’t help but think how the world is full of disparities. Education and innovation in the field of optometry has changed people’s lives for the better. We have witnessed how early diagnosis and treatment contributes to a long, healthy and productive lifestyle.
But, the reality remains that while some have unprecedented access to state of the art care, the less fortunate do not. People living in developing countries are in dire need of access to optometric services, yet in many countries, there are very few vision health professionals to provide this treatment.
Knowing this, we have an undeniable responsibility to advocate for better visual health around the globe. The WCO and its partners are doing just that. The organization is dedicated to establishing the future direction of optometry worldwide and has set a goal of reducing avoidable blindness by 25% by the year 2019. This is notably a bold step in the right direction.
Before the meeting began, I had the privilege of participating in a Presidential Forum with global industry leaders, presidents of optometry schools, NGOs and influential stakeholders in a series of round table discussions on educating the new generation of eyecare professionals, regulations, contributing to the global health agenda and mobilizing resources around our world. My eyes were wide open to the fact that the challenges that we face are universal – they aren’t just localized issues. As a result, one of the key initiatives of the WCO is to standardize optometric qualifications and education on a global basis.
The First Congress was driven by a diverse educational track including topics on myopia, diabetic retinopathy, low vision, universal eye health and a global action plan, and the impacts of technology on the practice of the future. I was honored to join Professor Kovin Naidoo on stage presenting the socio-economic consequences of visual impairment.
Today, 2.5 billion people are still in need of vision correction worldwide. The scale of this global challenge is so immense that it requires people working together to make the necessary changes. The recognition of the importance of optometry within health systems is growing, but there is still so much to be done. The First World Congress was indeed an optimistic idea-driven conference from which we all need to carry the message of the importance of healthy vision to those who can affect change around the world. We must continue to work together – Giving Vision a Voice!
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