The Nigerian Optometric Association (NOA) has called on the Federal Government to provide the enabling environment for Nigerians to access quality and efficient eye care services.
The NOA, the umbrella body of over 6,000 Nigerian optometrists united by the twin objectives of enhancing the visual health of Nigerians and promoting the optometric profession in the country, also asked the government to pay compelling attention to the health sector, especially primary health care, for a strong and healthy nation to emerge.
These were parts of the recommendations by the NOA in a communique issued at the end of its 46th National Conference/Vision Expo and AGM held in Asaba, Delta State, on 19th-22nd July, 2023, with the theme “The Optometrist: An indispensable Partner in Health Care Delivery”.
In the communique signed by its President, Dr. Anderson Chimeziri, and National Secretary, Dr. Victor K. Aliche, the Association said the government, through Federal Ministry of Health and National Orientation Agency, should prioritize and promote preventive eye care so as to encourage the public to seek early eye care intervention to prevent vision loss which ultimately will lead to poor quality of life.
It further recommended that parents should be encouraged “to allow their children to participate in healthier out-door activities and to reduce prolonged near work like use of mobile phones, laptops, eye pads, sitting close to the TV, etc” and that “there should be a break of about 20 seconds and relaxation of the eyes by looking at distant object after about 20 minutes of near work”.
“Government should enact policies to ensure that equipment required by Optometrists are not excessively taxed while being imported into the country,” the Association recommended.
“Government should implement the National Eye Health Policy which requires the engagement of an Optometrist at all primary healthcare centres, because even other health care practitioners require good sight and make the Primary Healthcare Centres to function effectively,” it said.
The NOA, while appreciating the Federal Government for its support over the years, especially in the employment of Optometrists into the Armed Forces, appealed to policy and decision-makers, including the Honourable Minister of Health to, “in view of the magnitude of avoidable blindness ravaging the Nigerian public and the severe dearth of Optometrists in public service, facilitate the employment of more Optometrists especially at the primary health care delivery level, to help increase access to quality eye health and vision care services to Nigerians”.
“The NOA reaffirms her previous resolutions with the current theme of the conference on the need for inter-professional collaborations and teamwork both in the eye care sub-sector and in the health sector in general, to improve health care delivery in our country.
“The NOA expressed serious concerns as to the state of the economy and security in the Country and the increasing spate of violent clashes and calls on Government to step up action to address the immediate and remote causes of the problems and lasting solution to the welfare and peace in the affected areas.
“The NOA resolved to remain a law-abiding, peaceful, and purposeful association dedicated to her objectives, and assisting Government in achieving all its well-intentioned programmes especially those principally affecting the health sector,” the Association further said in the communique.
Earlier, the NOA observed that over 1 billion people globally have been projected to be blind by 2025, which will affect productivity, national growth, and family life if adequate interventions are not effected.
The Association lamented that the state of functionality of primary health care facilities in Nigeria currently was alarmingly low.
It noted that about 80 percent of the over 6,000 optometrists in Nigeria are in the private sector, leaving only about 20 percent in the public sector which provides primary health care in the rural and sub-urban areas that constitutes most of the population of the country.
The NOA reaffirmed that ignorance and poor accessibility are some of the major causes of vision impairment and loss. It further said that poor out-door/prolonged near work activities like use of computers, telephones, TV, laptop, eye pads are major causes of eye and vision problems.
The Association reaffirmed that a single comprehensive eye exam conducted by an optometrist can lead to variety of favourable outcomes which include discovery of previously undetected eye and health problems like glaucoma, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other health conditions.
“NOA also reaffirmed that our sense of sight is one of the critical aspects of our daily life, that enables us to communicate with the world around us, perform numerous task essential to our daily life. Thus, when people have vision loss, it changes the way they live, decreases their physical and social activities which ultimately affects the brain function leading to cognitive decline,” the Association said.
“That one of the primary responsibilities of government is to cater for the welfare of its citizens and that certain equipment needed in the delivery of health care services are severely overtaxed by customs,” it said.
Among major issues highlighted during the 46th National Conference/Vision Expo of the Nigerian Optometric Association include the roles of the optometrist in health care delivery; providing comprehensive eye exam; correction of refractive errors and binocular vision disorders; management of eye diseases; co-management of complex eye diseases; detection of systemic health conditions with ocular manifestations; and health systems leadership.
The conference had in attendance the Delta State Governor, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Kingsley Emu; a former Minister of Information, Prof Sam Oyovbaire, who chaired the occasion; Deputy Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly, who represented the Hon. Speaker, Rt. Hon. Guwor Emomotimi Dennis; Permanent Secretary, Delta State Ministry of Health, Dr. (Mrs) Philomena Okeowo; eminent traditional rulers, among others.