Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 1 August, 2017: There are currently only three optometrists and 58 ophthalmologists (six in the public sector) to serve Haiti's population of 10 million people. These are predominantly located in the capital, making it difficult for the majority (70%) of people to access primary eye care services.
A Memorandum of Agreement has been signed to establish the first ever School of Optometry in Haiti. The School is a collaboration between l’Universite d’Etat d’Haiti (UEH), Brien Holden Vision Institute, Optometry Giving Sight, VOSH International and Charity Vision with support from University of Montreal. The signatories hope that the first students will commence their studies in October.
"This project will seek to graduate 16 optometrists per year, in what will be a 5-year Bachelor of Vision Science degree,” said Dr. Luigi Bilotto, Director Global Human Resource Development, Brien Holden Vision Institute, which is the lead international implementing partner for the project. "This means within 10 years, there will be 80 new locally educated eye care professionals who will be providing eye care to more than 360,000 Haitians per annum.”
This is an excerpt from the emerging story for optometry development in Haiti, written by our funding partners Optometry Giving Sight. We thank them for their ongoing commitment. Click here for the full story
What is global optometry development and why is it important?
In developed countries, eye care services are provided by optometrists either through public or private health care system. The optometrists are the primary healthcare practitioners of the visual system who provide comprehensive eye health care, which includes refraction and dispensing of spectacles, or contact lenses, detection and management of disease in the eye, and the rehabilitation of conditions of the visual system.
In the countries where optometry is established as a profession, optometrists act as skilled eye care professionals able to address the most complex refractive conditions, and in addition they can detect any concurrent ocular or systemic conditions. This results beneficially for the patient as eye conditions and disease are treated through early diagnosis and/or referral. Optometrists also provide specialised services such as low vision assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric, geriatric and occupational vision care.
Many developing countries do not have optometry as an established or recognised profession so schools of optometry offering education at diploma or degree level often do not exist. This lack of eye care services mean that communities are not able to access eye examinations or correctly prescribed spectacles. The impact on people’s lives, and the economic cost to the community and country, is considerable.
Our strategy to address this global need includes the development and support of optometry schools globally. We work together with tertiary institutions and ministries of health and education to develop and establish the profession of optometry in these countries.