Vision care in India urgently needs an Optometry Council

By Ashok Dixit | ANI | Updated: Nov 16, 2017 16:03 IST

New Delhi [India], Nov.16 (ANI): Believe it or not, but at least 10 crore Indians, a majority of whom are based in the rural parts of the country, need a pair of spectacles, but unfortunately don't have access to them, or are not aware that they need glasses.

This observation was made by Vinod Daniel, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Trustee of the not-for-profit Australian-initiated India Vision Institute (IVI) during an interview.

"People in India don't know or are not aware that they need glasses. It is the IVI's estimation, that seven percent of children in India need glasses. In terms of education, 80 percent is based on visual learning, and therefore, it is essential that children are enabled and abled to see properly. It is our observation that a substantial majority of children, especially in the rural areas, can't see the black board," Daniel told ANI.

Pitching fervently for the need to establish an Optometry Council in India, Daniel said the need of the hour was to generate awareness about going in for appropriate and timely vision care; educate the masses on the subject and train young people to take up optometry as a skilled profession as it was a well-paying one.

He informed that the IVI has done 140,000 visual care screenings till date and found that a majority of those appearing for them suffer from myopic vision.

"There is a reasonable representation to suggest and understand that it (poor vision) is a major problem. As you age, it is well known that you will need glasses. We at IVI are of the view that people provided with glasses in a timely manner can earn better, increase their productivity and that of the institutions they work for or run on their own. It is our estimate that poor vision has resulted in a production loss of approximately 26 billion dollars. India suffers from a lack of trained human resources and requires 125,000 optometrists. The country currently has only 45,000, "said Daniel.

When asked where these 45,000 optometrists were based, he said that they can be mostly found in Tier 1 and Tier 2 Indian cities, whereas Tier 3 and Tier 4 localities don't get the required attention.

"We have to generate awareness, establish testing procedures and mechanisms to provide the underprivileged sections of Indian society with appropriate and timely vision care, whether it is in the urban areas, or in rural environs. Vision care institutes like the L V Prasad Eye Institute and the Aravind Eye Hospital are doing this already, but more institutions need to join this bandwagon," the IVI CEO and Managing Trustee said.

Daniel said there is a need to introduce and promote short-term courses of one, two or four years for vision technicians and added that the optical market in India is presently worth two billion dollars in terms of revenue generation, and this can easily be doubled through partnerships and campaigns for greater outreach.

Emphasizing that primary eye care is an urgent requirement, Daniel said, "We need para-professionals in eye care; primary eye care providers. In India, this system is non-existent when compared to similar sectors in other parts of the world, which are much more and better organized."

He suggested that if vision care is taken care of, the benefits would be significant. For instance, he said, "One will be able to see; avoid accidents; get out of the poverty circle and get better educated."

He said the World Congress of Optometry 2017 held in Hyderabad in September this year saw the participation of over 1,250 eye care professionals from across the globe.

The conference celebrated India's major strides in optometry, exchanged notes on best practice approaches and latest advances in this field.

Over 900 Indians, 350 international optometrists and 30 exhibitors took part in the three-day event.

He said IVI's vision screening activities are making a positive difference to underprivileged communities.

"The aim is to constantly explore innovative ways to raise funds and continue this important activity. Establishing an Optometry Council will regulate the profession and maintain high standards. There is a need for integrating vision care delivery into the country's public health system.

Daniel is an Australian of Indian origin and a Board Member of the Australia-India Council. He is a graduate of IIT-Delhi and IIT-Madras. (ANI)