Original Research

The perceived role and relevance of South African optometric professional and regulatory bodies

Simon A. Maluleke, Vanessa R. Moodley
African Vision and Eye Health | Vol 81, No 1 | a730 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aveh.v81i1.730 | © 2022 Simon A. Maluleke, Vanessa R. Moodley | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 December 2021 | Published: 02 December 2022

About the author(s)

Simon A. Maluleke, Department of Optometry, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Vanessa R. Moodley, Department of Optometry, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


Background: Healthcare professions in South Africa are regulated through legislative bodies such as the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) towards the protection of the public. Professional associations, on the other hand, enhance professional practice aspirations and advocate for recognition of their profession and membership that is voluntary in nature. These specific mandates are sometimes confused or conflated by the profession.

Aim: To assess practitioner perceptions on the role and relevance of optometric professional and regulatory bodies in South Africa.

Setting: The study was conducted amongst practicing optometrists and dispensing opticians in South Africa.

Methods: A cross-sectional, descriptive study that used a quantitative approach involving 208 optometric professionals was conducted via an online survey.

Results: Approximately two-thirds (65.5%) of the 208 respondents, 65.0% of whom were members of the South African Optometric Association (SAOA), believed that the SAOA is relevant. However, more respondents (72.9%) in the sample believed that the HPCSA was relevant, the majority (56.1%) of whom were also SAOA members. Most respondents did not believe that either the SAOA (68.0%) or the HPCSA (61.0%) protects the practice of optometry. A lack of action against perceived negative practices of optometry networks and violations by registered and unregistered individuals emerged as strong reasons for dissatisfaction amongst respondents. High membership fees were cited as a membership deterrent by 67.0% of non-SAOA members. Despite reporting adequate knowledge of the SAOA (84.7%) and HPCSA (94.6%), factual assessment revealed only 42.4% and 69.5% were accurate on the respective mandates of the two organisations.

Conclusion: Although many practitioners were unclear of the actual mandates of both the SAOA and HPCSA, they believed that both bodies were relevant and should improve advocacy and sanctioning of errant practitioners within the optometric arena in South Africa.



advocacy; regulatory bodies; professional associations; HPCSA; SAOA; optometrist; dispensing opticians


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