Optometrists and educators from India and Australia met in New Delhi on 12 April and agreed to further developing optometry as an independent profession in India so as to substantially upgrade and increase optometric human resources.
As a Vision 2020 goal, this would assist a staggering 138 million people in India who are blind or vision impaired, with India currently having the highest number of blind people in the world.
One of the goals of Vision 2020 is that all countries should aim to have at least one refractive service provider per 50,000 people by 2010 and this number should increase to one per 20,000 by 2020.
If optometry in India is to further develop into a regulated profession, it is estimated that the country will need at least 100 schools of optometry over the next few decades to meet the demand for fully qualified optometrists. Ensuring that quality education is delivered in all these undergraduate programs would require the development of a minimum of 1,000 optometric educators, who are capable of facing the challenges ahead, to eventually help produce around 5,000 optometry graduates per year.
Professor Brien Holden CEO of the International Centre for Eyecare Education and the Brien Holden Vision Institute said: “Australia can assist in this process by sharing lessons learned from the academic, professional and legislative pathway that Australian Optometry had followed over the last 80 years to become an effective health care profession.”
The two-day meeting explored development and implementation of education and competency standards for optometry in India, establishment of a Graduate School of Optometry to train academic staff through facilitating post-graduate studies and research, national accreditation and regulation for optometry as an independent profession in India and establishment of continuing education programs.
Mr. Vinod Daniel, Chairman, AusHeritage, who was part of the Australian delegation, added that blindness prevention was one global initiative where a very small amount of investment provides large financial returns for any country both in terms of increased productivity as well as improvement in self dignity.