Original Research

Global mapping of optometry workforce

Kovin S. Naidoo, Pirindhavellie Govender-Poonsamy, Priya Morjaria, Sandra Block, Ving F. Chan, Ai Chee Yong, Luigi Bilotto
African Vision and Eye Health | Vol 82, No 1 | a850 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aveh.v82i1.850 | © 2023 Kovin Shunmugam Naidoo, Pirindhavellie Govender-Poonsamy, Priya Morjaria, Sandra Block, Ving Fai Chan, Ai Chee Yong, Luigi Bilotto | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 March 2023 | Published: 27 October 2023

About the author(s)

Kovin S. Naidoo, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa; and Faculty of Optometry and Vision Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
Pirindhavellie Govender-Poonsamy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa; and Brien Holden Vision Institute, Sydney, Australia
Priya Morjaria, International Eye Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom
Sandra Block, Illinois College of Optometry, Illinois, United States
Ving F. Chan, Centre for Public Health, School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen’s University of Belfast, Belfast, Ireland
Ai Chee Yong, Centre for Public Health, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, Ireland
Luigi Bilotto, École d’optométrie, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Canada

Abstract

Background: Vision impairment is a growing global burden issue, and appropriately trained optometrists are essential for its management. However, there is a shortage of optometrists worldwide, which hampers eye care planning. Few studies have addressed this shortage quantitatively.

Aim: The study aimed to describe the distribution of the global optometric workforce.

Setting: Global and country level.

Methods: From February 2017 to May 2020, a standardised questionnaire in English was utilised to collect data on the global number and distribution of optometrists from key informants. Optometrists were categorised based on the World Council of Optometry’s guidelines, from levels two to four. Optometrist-to-population ratios were calculated for all countries and regions and compared with targets of 1:50 000 (in developing contexts) or 1:10 000 (in developed contexts).

Results: An 80.9% response was achieved with responses from 123 of the 152 countries invited. Most (40.7%) key informants were academics. The total number of optometrists across 21 Global Burden of Disease (GBD) regions was 331 781. Sixty-six (53.7%) countries met the 1:50 000 optometrist-to-population ratio. There was a noticeable positive correlation (r = 0.7) between the prevalence of blindness and vision impairment and the optometrist-to-population ratios. Strong inverse relationships existed between a country’s gross domestic product and optometrist-to-population ratio.

Conclusion: High-income countries met the target for optometrist-to-patient ratios, while low- to middle-income countries and low-income countries did not meet the targets. Low optometrist-to-patient ratios were strongly associated with a higher magnitude of blindness and vision impairment.

Contribution: This article provides the first consolidation of the global optometry workforce.


Keywords

optometrist; practitioner-to-population ratio; mapping; optometry workforce; global distribution

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being

Metrics

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Crossref Citations

1. Task-shifting and the recruitment and retention of eye care workers in under-served areas: a qualitative study of optometrists’ motivation in Ghana and Scotland
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