Primary care role of optometrists

Professor, Illinois College of Optometry
Organisation: World Council of Optometry

On World Optometry Day, Dr Sandra Block highlights the core primary care role of optometrists…

Primary care role of optometrists; Child indicating the direction of a letter whilst screening at a school in Sierra LeoneFirst, I would like to congratulate all optometrists on World Optometry Day for all that you do to help people all over the globe to see better. Being that this year is 2020, everyone is focused on vision. The year 2020 provides us a great opportunity to publicly advocate for vision and eye health issues. Whether you use the Snellen system or not: you, your staff, and your patients all know that 2020 means good vision.   

The October 2019 release of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Report on Vision (WRV) is an opportunity for optometry. I see it as a chance to take an active role in addressing many of the vision problems described in the document. The WRV is truly a call to action for optometry. We need to realise that the magnitude of vision and eye health problems is far greater than we ever imagined. Optometry is in a perfect position to be a vital part of the global solution.   

The report highlights that uncorrected refractive error – including presbyopia – has been reported to exist at much higher levels than previously found in the literature. In addition, as optometrists deliver comprehensive eye care to our patients, we can also be part of the solution for prevention, diagnosis, and referral for treatment for conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, AMD, and cataracts.   

I have always thought of myself as primary eye care providerIn my position, I feel it is my responsibility to conduct a thorough case history and comprehensive exam, which includes a refractive assessment and an eye health evaluation. We, as optometrists, already identify patients who have early indicators of some vision problems which, if treated early, can lead to better outcomes. Examples in my years of practice include patients with early signs of glaucoma, cataracts, AMD and other health issues. More important to me as I focus on my patients, is educating them about prevention. I emphasise to my patients the importance of living healthy lifestyles, including smoking cessation, which may help prevent developing diabetes (and likely diabetic retinopathy) or hypertensionThis has helped lead many of my patients to better vision and eye health outcomes.   

Lastly, as optometrists, I feel that it is also important that we look after our patients with visual impairments and blindness that could not be prevented. When I was a young practitioner, I was trying to focus on where I could impact my patients the most. For me, the decision was primary care for pediatric patients and those with disabilities or helping to deliver quality low vision and vision rehabilitation services. Both of these options are part of the care we can deliver as means for optometry to improve quality of life for the people that we serve.   

Once again, I wish everyone Happy World Optometry Day and let’s work together to help more people worldwide see better! 

Image on top: Child indicating the direction of a letter whilst screening at a school in Sierra Leone by Graham Coates for #VisionFirst photo competition

GA 2020 – Act Now!

The IAPB Global Assembly 2020 (GA2020) programme has several sessions for optometrists. If you are keen to share your work, do submit an abstract–the sector needs to know!


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