Public Health Optometry is an art and science of preventing visual impairment and promoting visual health through organized efforts and informed choices of society.
The objective of public health optometry is based on the principles of reaching out to those in need and providing them help, making use of local resources, and providing services to the areas which may or may not have regular access to services.
The public health optometry program not only provides access to eye care but also addresses social and economic barriers that prevent these groups of patients from accessing services. It is also an opportunity to educate the community on eye care and address conditions such as cataract, refractive errors, and diabetic eye diseases. So outreach visits need to be planned, to respond to the need of the local area, and may have a particular focus e.g. identification of cataract cases, screening of refractive error and refraction, and provision of spectacles.
As we know the prevalence of visual impairment is increasing across the globe, with more burdens on the developing world. Research has shown that the prevalence of chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension are increasing day by day in developing countries and the need for public health optometrist is huge for early detection of ocular complications for these conditions.
Despite considerable efforts in many developing countries, through National Blindness Prevention Programmes, the global number of blind and visually impaired seems to be growing, mainly as an effect of population increase and aging.
A large number of visually impaired people in a country denote poor socio-economic development and an inefficient eye care service in the country. About 80-90% of the blindness is either curable or preventable. The planning and implementation of appropriate eye care services in a country need evidence generated from the population.
Cataract stands out as the first priority among the major causes of visual impairments. Thus there is a need to drastically increase the number of cataract surgeries in the developing world. Refractive errors and Low vision constitute another priority in terms of visual impairment. There is an enormous need globally for spectacles and low vision devices. Emphasis on the public health optometry coverage by covering diseases other than cataracts like diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, corneal opacity, and childhood blindness, etc. needs immediate attention to eliminate avoidable blindness.
The global initiative is still in its planning phase, but there is clearly recognized a need for a global awareness campaign to sensitize decision-makers and health care providers as to the rationale and great benefit of prevention of visual impairment. That is why a strong partnership between all those working for the prevention of visual impairments is essential for optimal utilization of resources available today and in the future.
Together Let us empower and enable the visually impaired.
Faculty of Allied Health Sciences