The development of an advocacy strategy to help lobby governments around the world to ensure optometry is recognised as a key profession in the public health sector, was one of the main topics of conversation at the World Council of Optometry’s (WCO) recent General Delegates’ Meeting in Malaga, Spain (21 April).
Maria Arce, Director of International Affairs, said: “We know that many countries are struggling to get optometry officially recognised by their governments. We are in close contact with optometric organisations around the world, and are in a strong position to help the voices of eye and vision care professionals heard.”
During the meeting, members of WCO’s committees also gave updates on the work they have been carrying out over the past year. Notably, it was reported that a record number of applications were received for the 2013 WCO fellowship programme. This programme provides financial assistance to optometrists and students of optometry around the world who are committed to improving vision and eye care globally.
In 2013, the programme will provide $10,000 towards optometric projects and $10,000 for travel bursaries to be divided between the successful applicants.
The General Delegates’ Meeting also marked the last official engagement for WCO’s outgoing President, Tone Garaas-Maurdalen (Norway). She said: “I have been lucky enough to hold the position of President of WCO since our last General Delegates’ Meeting in Puerto Rico in 2011. The past two years have been an exciting time for me, and the organisation, and I am proud of the great strides forward made by WCO in this time.
“It has truly been an honour to hold this position.”
The new President of WCO, Dr Susan Cooper (Canada), said: “It is an honour and a privilege to be able to serve our esteemed profession as President of the WCO. I look forward to working with the Governing Board on behalf of our global members to continue to move optometry forward as the primary eye care profession.
“The past two years, under the leadership of Tone Garaas-Maurdalen have seen increased involvement by WCO in both the International Association for Prevention of Blindness and the World Health Organization. Partnering with organisations such as these is critical as we seek to increase the profile of optometry and its integration into the healthcare systems of nations around the world.
“As we continue our work we must also continue to develop mutually beneficial relationships with the large NGOs with whom we share the goal of a world without preventable blindness. I look forward to working toward these goals during my administration and I thank everyone involved in WCO for their help and support.”
The Governing Board also welcomed Nigeria’s Dr Uduak Udom as President Elect, while Dr Pete Kehoe (USA) took over from fellow American, Dr Richard Wallingford, as Treasurer.
The GDM ended with thanks to the members of the Governing Board whose term has now finished: Professor George Woo (Hong Kong), Wolfgang Cagnolati (Germany), Rajeshwari Sagar (Tanzania) and Hernando Avila (Columbia).
The GDM was part of Malaga 2013, a unique optometric and optics gathering that also included the European Academy of Optometry and Optics’ Annual Conference, the European Council of Optometry and Optics’ General Assembly, and the Spanish General Council of Optometry’s National Conference.