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HomeminewsMobilise Optometrists in Asia: AOC

Mobilise Optometrists in Asia: AOC

Delegates to the 3rd Asian Optometric Congress (AOC) have been told that optometrists need to be mobilised, to improve access to eye health care in Asia.

Six hundred delegates from across the Asia Pacific region, as well as the United States and United Kingdom, met in Kuala Lumpur in November for the long-awaited conference, delayed twice by the COVID pandemic.

We can spur each other to excellence, learning from each other, supporting one other, and with the help of our industry partners, bring sight, prevent blindness and impact our nations

In his opening speech to the gathering, organising committee chair Mr Woon Pak Seong said the two-day conference had a schedule that was “something not short of crazy”, incorporating eight plenary lectures, 10 industry sessions, 60 workshops, 21 oral presentations, 13 posters and 22 e-posters.

He urged conference delegates to grasp hold of the bigger picture for optometry in the region.

“Looking at all of you, looking at these galaxies of stars in the optometry universe, I see the opportunity for us to be more than just conference delegates. Rather I see the opportunity for us to become a movement, where we can spur each other to excellence, learning from each other, supporting one other, and with the help of our industry partners, bring sight, prevent blindness and impact our nations.”

Need for Increased Screening

In his opening address, Datuk Dr Murphy Chan, President of the AOC, said the Congress provided an opportunity to discuss the rising incidence of vision impairment around the world.

“This is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently. As optometrists, we know that regular eye check-ups can help to detect and reduce the incidence of vision impairment amongst the public.

“However public awareness of the importance of eye health and eye care is not very high.”

Using the example of Malaysia, he said survey findings show that almost 70% of Malaysians had not gone for an eye screen recently. He said many cases of blindness in Malaysia could be prevented with early intervention and treatment.

He said there were 600 ophthalmologists in Malaysia and most Malaysians visited the public hospital system for eye care treatment. This put extraordinary strain on the system, he said.

“One way to ease the burden on hospitals is mobilise optometrists to help the community in eye healthcare screening,” Datuk Murphy said.

“Mobilising optometrists for community eye health screening will help to reduce the influx of patients checking into hospital for all sorts of eye disorders, some of which could have been easily addressed and managed by seeing an optometrist.

His comments about mobilising the optometry profession were supported by a later speaker to the platform, Dr Mohamed Iqbal bin Hamzah, from the Malaysian Ministry of Health. He said there were 2,700 optometrists in Malaysia – most in private practice. Mobilising them to perform screening, particularly in rural areas, would reduce congestion in the public hospital system, he said.

He stressed the importance of continuous learning at events like the AOC, to maintain the quality and competency of eye health care.

The conference program covered a wide variety of topics, from refractive error, and myopia management, to primary eye care, glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, dry eye, sports vision, and vision therapy. As well, the latest in spectacle and contact lens technology was showcased.

OK and Myopia Control

Originally envisaged as a virtual event, strong demand for a return to face-to-face conferences saw the 3rd Global Orthokeratology and Myopia Control Conference (GOMCC) combine with the AOC, adding a further two days to the start of the program.

GOOMCC Organising Chair Mr Tan Thok Chuan said myopia management has become significantly important for optometrists and ophthalmologists to combat the ever-growing myopia population, particularly in children and teenagers.

“This is especially evident during the Covid-19 pandemic periods where schools are closed, and students are forced to do online learnings. These factors have resulted in higher incidence of myopia amongst this age group,” he said.
“It is our commitment to provide solutions to manage this fast-growing problem, not just in Malaysia, but in the region as well.

“In this regard, we need to better understand the myriad issues and to update our competence in managing myopia progression among the young population.”

The GOMCC conference presented a full day of workshops, in two streams, followed by Plenary Sessions the following day.

Mr Tan took the floor for the opening plenary session on managing corneal staining in orthokeratology (OK).
Other speakers included Australians Dr Daniel Tilia, Dr Oliver Woo, Dr Monica Jong, and Mr Hamish Thrum, however it was a truly international line-up with speakers from Switzerland, Chinese Taipei, Singapore, the United States, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, China, Vietnam, and Japan.

Main image: Datuk Dr Murphy Chan, President of the AOC