Haiti has the highest levels of blindness and severe vision impairment among people aged 50 and over, in the entire Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region. With the age-standardized prevalence estimated at 4.8 percent and 21.9 percent respectively, this level of blindness is three times greater than some other countries in the region.
Optometrists in the developing world
In the developed countries of the world, optometrists are trained as primary healthcare practitioners of the eye, providing comprehensive vision care including refraction and the dispensing of spectacles and the detection of conditions of the eye. Optometry is not an established profession in many countries in the developing world.
Haiti’s population is just over 10 million people and there are only three optometrists, all trained overseas, and 56 ophthalmologists to meet the eye care needs of the population.
A new chapter
In April 2018, a landmark occasion heralded a new chapter for Haiti with the opening of the first optometry school. The initial 19 students have become the pioneers of their profession for Haiti by being enrolled in the Haiti optometry program. The program is a collaboration between I’Université d’État d’Haïti, Brien Holden Vision Institute, Optometry Giving Sight, VOSH International, Charity Vision, and l’Université de Montréal.
The development of qualified optometrists will make an exceptional contribution to the vision care needs of Haiti. The first generation of optometrists will relieve ophthalmologists from the management of basic and common eye conditions, allowing them to focus on their areas of specialty; medical and surgical treatment. The creation of skilled optometrists will in time increase the efficiency of eye care services in Haiti and improve the quality of life for millions of Haitian people.
Selina Madeleine, Brien Holden Vision Institute, [email protected]