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Global Optometry History

Global Optometry

The profession of Optometry is still a new concept particularly in many parts of Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa. The recognition of the profession in many countries is still not accepted by either the Ministry of Education and or Health. Many countries do not have educational programs related to Optometry. For example, in the continent of Africa consisting of 50 countries, Optometric educational programs only exists in four countries, possibly five. Some of the inherent problems in Africa with Optometric education are the lack of resources for facilities, equipment and teachers.

The World Council of Optometry (WCO), formerly known as the International Optometry and Optical League (IOOL), in the 1990s came up with a formal definition of Optometry. The definition for Optometry is as follows:
Optometry is a healthcare profession that is autonomous, educated, and regulated (licensed/registered), and Optometrists are the primary healthcare practitioners of the eye and visual system who provide comprehensive eye and vision care, which includes refraction and dispensing, detection/diagnosis and management of disease in the eye, and the rehabilitation of conditions of the visual system.

What do “full scope Optometry” and primary care Optometry include? The professional training and service to the public include refraction, optics and related areas, contact lenses, binocular vision and visual training, pediatrics, rehabilitation vision and geriatric care, pathology, diagnostic and therapeutics pharmaceutical agents, environmental vision and vision science.

A Visual Health Profession

In recent years, Optometry has been promoted around the world as a visual health profession. In countries where the profession is evolving, the principles being applied are as follows:

  • Visual health for all: a human right
  • Visual health and quality of life 
  • Need for educational training 
  • Legislative changes will improve access to visual health care
  • Accessibility
  • Affordability