SA professor sets standard
A ground-breaking international initiative to provide eye-care education to more than 640 million people worldwide is under way.
The initiative, an internet-based learning resource, was introduced at the World Council of Optometry's global conference in Chicago, US, by a University of KwaZulu-Natal professor, Kovin Naidoo.
Lost productivity resulting from the lack of access to eye-care costs the world an estimated $26-billion (R216-billion) annually.
The International Centre for Eye-Care Education's global optometry initiative will make access to eye-care education freely available .
Naidoo, the centre's global programmes director, said that since its inception the centre had been dedicated to providing eye-care education in developing countries.
Naidoo is also the African chairman of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.
"An undertaking of this magnitude targets widespread distribution and uptake by the rapidly growing optometry education sector," he said.
"It provides a stepping stone to global consistency in optometry which, for maximum effectiveness, needs to be distributed to all levels of optometric training institutions, especially in countries in need, free of charge."
He said the initiative was integral to the development of people qualified to provide access to eye-care.
The resource comprises learning materials based on the centre's curriculum and is designed to meet various developing world contexts.
A first of its kind in optometrics, the platform creates a reference point for new and established schools across the world in the development of eye-care.
Naidoo said an open source educational platform for optometry gave the world access to the core teaching and learning units of an optometry degree programme in a downloadable format and enabled educators and students to access course notes and presentations by some of the finest optometric educators in the world.
"It's a truly global collaboration by educators from all over the world."
Luigi Bilotto, the centre's global human resource development director, said this was a ground-breaking project intended to increase the number of skilled eye-care workers needed to provide adequate eye-care access.
"The resource is targeted, in particular, at those working in areas in which there has been little, if any, eye-care education. For many countries, there are still no optometrists, optometry courses or access to eye-care education, which means that easy access to the most basic eye-care is simply not possible.
"The platform should not only have a direct and significant effect on community health and poverty but also on the growth and development of the eye-care industry."
Bilotto said the main goal was to make the resource something that would allow the optometry community to share expertise and support a new generation of eye-care professionals.
"We are currently looking for more resources and are appealing to people in the profession to contact us, contribute to the platform and help make eye-care education available to everyone, everywhere."