Private optometry practices can play the role of eye care provider to reduce the burden on government facilities
The Ministry of Health (MoH) sees the important role of optometrists from the public and private sectors, with private optometry practices playing the role of primary eye care providers to help reduce the eye care burden in the country.
MoH Director of Medical Practice (Medical Practice Division) Dr Mohamed Iqbal Hamzah said: “The MoH acknowledges the importance of eye health and eye care in Malaysia. Vision impairment is still a major global health concern, with Malaysia not an exception.
“Statistics have shown an increasing number of people who have vision impairment, partly due to the increase in the ageing population and unhealthy lifestyles. Additionally, the impact of the pandemic may further aggravate the myopia incidence globally.
“Hence, we at the MoH observe the importance of the involvement of optometrists from both public and private sectors, with private optometry practice playing the role of primary eye care provider to reduce the eye care burden,” he said when opening the 3rd Asia Optometric Congress (AOC) conference.
Delayed by two years due to the pandemic, the 3rd AOC) was held on Nov 15-16, 2022 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC), Kuala Lumpur.
According to Dr Mohamed Iqbal, the Guest of Honor, there are 2700 optometrists in Malaysia, with 2300 optometrists serving in the private sector. He said that mobilising optometrists to perform the primary eye care role would reduce the congestion in public hospitals, enabling urgent and important cases to be attended to immediately.
“As such, the Ministry will work on a mechanism with optometrists in both public and private sectors to improve public access to optometrist services nationwide.
“With screening and preventative measures done regularly, including greater public awareness on the importance of eye screening, we hope to see a downward trend in vision impairment in the coming years,” he said.
Working together is important
AOC President Datuk Murphy Chan said: “AOC provides us with an opportunity to discuss the pressing issue occurring globally, particularly in Asia; the escalating rate of vision impairment cases worldwide. This is an urgent issue we need to address.
“As optometrists, we know that regular eye checkups and screening can help reduce the incidence of vision impairment amongst the public. However, public awareness of the importance of eye health and care still needs to improve.
“In Malaysia, for instance, survey findings show that some 67 per cent of the population have not gone for eye screening for more than a year.
“Based on the 2018 National Eye Survey Malaysia, 15,000 individuals were examined for blindness. Of them, 58.6 per cent were diagnosed with untreated cataracts that could have been prevented if they had been detected earlier.
“The challenge, therefore, is to create more awareness, educate the public on the importance of regular eye checkups, and implement a stronger eye care system in the community.”
The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) Western Pacific region chair Amanda Davis said: “No one stakeholder is going to solve this problem (rising global vision impairment cases).
“We all need to work together; optometry, ophthalmology, general practices, private sectors, the government, non-governmental organisations, etc. It will take all of us coming together.
“This is why these conferences are so important, critical to bring these issues to the forefront and identify the solutions. Seeing the focus on primary eye care healthcare throughout the programme is truly inspiring.
“This will increase access and equity for those who would not normally get access to eye health. It is also a cost-effective solution, which is always good news to the government and the individual,” she said.
Overwhelming support and participation
In his welcoming speech, the 3rd AOC conference Organising Chairmain Woon Pak Seon, said: “We anticipated 300 delegates, but today we have 600 delegates. I’m truly humbled by the overwhelming response.”
Apart from the Malaysian delegates, other participating delegates were from Australia, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States and many more.
“I see the opportunity for us to be more than just conference delegates. Rather I see an opportunity for us to be a movement, where we can spur each other towards excellence, learn from each, and support one another,” shared Woon.
Association of Malaysian Optometrists (AMO) President Ahmad Fadhullah Fuzai said: “AOC is a platform for industry partners, eye care practitioners, clinicians, researchers and academicians, to showcase their service and work, and support each other to upgrade and enhance eye care services in this region.”
He conveyed his appreciation to the organising committee for successfully organising the conference.
The two-day conference featured eight plenary lectures, 60 workshops, and 21 oral presentations. – The Health