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There are not enough people on the ground with a broad enough range of skills and qualifications to match the scale or the range of issues that now face eye health.
The implementation of the 2030 In Sight strategy will require a coordinated, motivated, diverse and well-resourced eye care sector and workforce.
However, a shortage of people to deliver eye health services is currently one of our greatest challenges. There is a general shortage of ophthalmologists, optometrists, and allied ophthalmic personnel in low- and middle-income countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa for instance, there are between 1·1 and 4·4 ophthalmologists per million population compared to 80 ophthalmologists per million in higher income countries.
To expand the workforce, we need to develop a broader view of the workforce, break down any professional silos, attracting and increase the number of people who can provide eye care services.
Education and training for eye care and allied health professionals should adopt the World Health Organization’s Eye Care Competency Framework in their curriculum, focusing on developing and maintaining skills in addition to medical knowledge of diseases.
This will help ensure basic eye care services are closer to those who need them most.
We need to increase the workforce and ensure their skills are used in the most appropriate ways.
Education for eye care workers is often targeted towards secondary and tertiary levels of health care, but there is a major lack of eye care workers at the community and primary level of health care where the majority of need exists.
There will always be a clear and urgent need for specialisation, but we also must increase access to screening and diagnosis at a primary level. With the correct referral pathways, it will also free up specialists’ time to use their skills appropriately and to their full potential.