Year : 2013 | Volume
: 6 | Issue : 2 | Page : 75--76
A vision for optometry in Oman
Dean, College of Health Sciences, University of Buraimi, Oman
J F Thomas
Dean, Health Sciences College, University of Buraimi, P.B: 890, P.C: 512, Al Buraimi
|How to cite this article:|
Thomas J F. A vision for optometry in Oman.Oman J Ophthalmol 2013;6:75-76
|How to cite this URL:|
Thomas J F. A vision for optometry in Oman. Oman J Ophthalmol [serial online] 2013 [cited 2020 Mar 30 ];6:75-76
Available from: http://www.ojoonline.org/text.asp?2013/6/2/75/116617
Optometry is no longer an emerging profession in the global context. According to World Council of Optometry (WCO), "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..." Optometry has evolved rapidly in the developed world over the past century. Optometrists in America and Australia are responsible for more than 70% of primary eye and vision care services. However, in the developing world where the demand for eye care is greater, the profession is in its early stages of development. Countries like India, in recognition of the value of optometry, are taking important initial steps to regularize its education and to upgrade other primary eye care cadres with 4 year degrees. 
The World Health Organization estimates that 285 million people in the world are visually impaired. The major cause for visual impairment is refractive errors (43%) of which 80% are preventable.  Further, nearly 50% of the 1.04 billion presbyopes do not have a pair of spectacles, of these 94% are in the developing world.  The global initiative to eliminate avoidable blindness - VISION 2020: The right to sight - launched in Oman in 1999 has made considerable progress and helped shift the focus from communicable and noncurable diseases to avoidable and chronic diseases.  However, managing uncorrected refractive errors and an estimation of its impact on productivity appears to have received less attention, although the prevalence of refractive errors here is comparable to other countries. Increasing diabetic retinopathy is another major challenge.  Proper awareness and periodic screening are the two best possible ways to reduce the risk of diabetic retinopathy.  Hence Optometrists can contribute significantly to Oman's efforts to ensure the right to sight.
Is poor perception of the role of optometrists within healthcare teams a reason for its neglect in the developing world?
The Problem of Perception
Healthcare is no longer dependant on an individual's expertise or a single discipline; team effort is indispensible in modern healthcare delivery. Sadly, the three levels of healthcare are often viewed as representing a hierarchy where primary healthcare occupies the lowest level. Whereas the overall mission of healthcare, which envisages disease free humanity affirms the preeminence of prevention, and early detection of illness.
Primary vision care facilities with qualified optometrists to manage refractive errors, detect potential eye diseases early, and serve as a link to next level care will enhance eye care services. Unfortunately policymakers in many developing countries ignore the contributions of optometrists and that adversely affects its development.
The Problem of Optometry Hierarchy
The hierarchy of qualifications within health sciences disciplines, cost of education, and postqualification employment determine the hierarchy in professional practice; optometry is no exception. The notion that one type of eye care is superior to the other ignores the reality of serving the same cause. Therefore policymakers must clearly identify the needed cadres, define their roles, and required skill matrices to regulate optometry education and practice.
Changing Role of Medical Professionals
Medical professionals in developed countries focus on research and innovation that transforms healthcare as their environment is conducive to higher end research. Therefore they appear to readily accept allied health services, thus indirectly contributing to the growth of allied health professions. For instance the Bureau of Labor Statistics in America annually lists several fastest growing allied health occupations. Further research enhanced professional competence in developed healthcare systems guarantees better economic rewards.
Perhaps it is the lack of such research enhanced practice opportunities in the developing world that forces medical professionals to perform routine tasks that could otherwise be delegated.
Optometry in Oman
To ensure better eye care services to the people of Oman, the dependence on import of health resources needs to be reviewed, for imported resources lacking contextual orientation compromise sustainable development. Therefore the focus on indigenization of resources is not only justified but also essential. In the context of optometry, higher education institutions (HEIs) are duty bound to provide professional, and continuing education to achieve the eye care goals of Oman. Public and private hospitals must actively participate in training as only they can provide real life learning experiences.
Employed Omani refractionists must be supported to pursue further education. HEIs must offer traditional and blended learning programs in optometry to ensure lifelong learning. Oman has a pioneering opportunity in optometry education in the region if innovation influences indigenization. Alternative career pathways and entrepreneurial initiatives can be envisaged and implemented. Qualified optometrists may be funded to establish community clinics to serve populations in remote and rural locations.
Collaboration between medicine and engineering has provided outstanding solutions to patients needing assistive and corrective devices. Oman depends on importing such devices where such importing is fraught with issues of timely availability. Further rising import costs may raise issues of affordability over time. Hence optometry education in Oman should include programs that enable indigenous manufacturing. Innovative optometry education underpinned by contextual understanding will improve employment opportunities while giving Oman its due place as a pioneer in higher education.
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