World Congress of Optometry opens in Hyderabad: eye health experts see hope for the visually impaired
The conference theme is ‘Accessible, quality vision and eye health’, which ties into the WHO’s ‘Universal Eye Health: A global action plan 2014-2019’.
The plan aims to reduce the prevalence of avoidable visual impairment by 25% by 2019.
World Council of Optometry (WCO) envisions accomplishing this by placing a strong and equitable eye health system within which optometry plays a valuable and essential role.
The biennial congress is a initiative organised by WCO in partnership with the Asia Pacific Council of Optometry (APCO) and the India Vision Institute (IVI).
Leading eye health experts from various countries will discuss and present new ideas, share research and knowledge from various facets of Optometry at this second World Congress, to be held until Sep 13 at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre.
WHO estimates 285 million to be visually impaired, of which 39 million are blind and 246 million have low vision. Globally, uncorrected refractive errors are the main cause of moderate and severe visual impairment; cataracts remain the leading cause of blindness in middle- and low-income countries.
Papa Rao; Advisor Telangana Government, Dr. G. N. Rao, Chair, LVPEI, Vinod Daniel, National Organising Committee Chair and CEO India Vision Institute, Dr. Uduak Udom, President World Council of Optometry and Shameem N. Razak, President, Asia Pacific Council of Optometry, were present.
Also attending was Prof. Kovin Naidoo, Conference Chair and CEO, Brien Holden Vision Institute.
Over 1,500 delegates comprising optometrists, researchers, educators, students and health professionals from around the world and India are participating in the conference.
Dr Uduak Udom said “I am delighted that this important biennial conference is being held in India, a country which is seeing great developments on all fronts, including strides in Optometry and vision care delivery. India has, and should, take the lead in leading the world. We have a lot to learn from India."
Deliberations will focus on the future of Optometry, upgrading optometrists’ skills, as well as developing clinical and professional knowledge and skills.
Vinod Daniel said, "Sometimes all it takes to address visual impairment is a pair of spectacles. Through vision screening programs and by providing free spectacles to those in need, IVI is hoping to make a difference. Generating awareness in communities will also help play a catalytic role in achieving faster results."
The conference will offer opportunities for networking among participants in a collegial spirit, and further the exchange of knowledge and experiences for professional enhancement, education and career development.
"Of the national requirement of around 150,000 professionals, there are currently only 40,000 optometrists in India. There is clearly a big shortfall in optometrists, which needs to be looked into urgently," Daniel noted.
Shameem N Razak said, “Challenges remain and these must be overcome. We hope to address several issues confronting countries around the world at the conference.”
IVI is anchoring the World Congress. It undertakes vision screening programs across India and provides free spectacles, where needed, to disadvantaged communities.
It also assists with skilling optometrists and conducts workshops and leadership programs.
There will also be 16 workshops on a range of education and scientific areas, including school eye health programs and diabetic retinopathy, among others.
Keynote speakers include: Dr Taraprasad Das, Vice-Chairman, LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad; Professor GVS Murthy, Director, Indian Institute of Public Health, Hyderabad; Dr Bina Patel, Professor, Director of International Programs, New England College of Optometry, Boston, MA, USA; Dr Sandra S. Block, Faculty, Illinois College of Optometry, Chicago, USA; Dr Ron Melton, Charlotte, NC, USA; Dr Randall K. Thomas, Concord, NC, USA; and Dr Peter G Swann, QUT, Brisbane, Australia & Visiting Professor, School of Optometry, Hong Kong.
Exhibiting during the World Congress are 20 exhibitors representing the world’s top companies from the optical industry as well as leading institutions working in the eye health sector.