Taking eye care advocacy to a global scale
At the recent 4th World Congress of Optometry in Australia in September, Roger Jordan, O.D., second from left, poses for a photo with (left to right) Rajeev Prasad (WCO Board member), Sajeesh Kumar Kamala Raghavan (winner of the WCO International Optometrist Award), and Gaurav Anand (WCO member).
Over his 40 years in optometry, Roger Jordan, O.D., has gravitated toward where he thought he might be needed and could propel the profession forward in the U.S.
Dr. Jordan is among U.S. optometry’s most influential and effective advocates. He has been honored a number of times for his advocacy efforts and, in 2020, was presented the AOA Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes an individual doctor of optometry who distinguishes themselves with unusually significant contributions and outstanding achievements, over the long term, to the advancement of the profession of optometry.
Now Dr. Jordan has taken his passion for the profession and helping people to a new global platform. This summer, he was elected chair of the World Council of Optometry (WCO) Legislation, Registration and Standards (LRS) Committee. The mission of the WCO is “to facilitate the development of optometry around the world and support optometrists in promoting eye health and vision care as a human right through advocacy, education, policy development and humanitarian outreach.”
The committee supports optometrists worldwide to elevate the profession in the eyes of their respective countries’ governments and publics.
“Most countries are not at the level of scope that we (Americans) are used to,” observes Dr. Jordan, who has previously served on the WCO board, as North America Regional Representative, and on the LRS Committee. “We’re ready for the fight to make the profession better.
“After seeing what we are able to provide as eye care providers and comparing what the majority of the world is not providing, I felt compelled to be involved with the WCO, so that I could help a country or countries start to develop a plan to provide eye care for their citizens,” he says. “This position, as chair of LRS, puts this committee right in the middle of all the action. There is so much that is needed that it is actually overwhelming. I am hoping to use my experience on the state and national level (in the U.S.) working with politicians and administrators, to help give advice and direction to those countries that ask for help from WCO and the LRS committee.”
WCO seeks recognition of optometry
It's fair to say that eye care around the world is provided unevenly. And people suffer because of it. The WCO’s vision is to make eye health and vision care accessible to all. WCO membership is international and includes country-based associations (the AOA, for instance), affiliate members (for instance, the American Optometric Student Association, the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry and several U.S. optometry schools), individual members and corporate members.
“Across the world, access to eye care is way below what we feel it should be,” Dr. Jordan said.
According to the World Health Organization:
- 2 billion people worldwide have vision impairment. Vision impairment could have been prevented or has not been addressed in about 1 billion of those people.
- The leading causes of vision impairment and blindness are refractive errors and cataracts.
- The loss of productivity due to vision impairment is estimated at $411 billion (U.S. dollars).
“WCO works with other global leaders to try to develop models that will help reduce the magnitude of preventable vision impairment and blindness,” says Sandra Block, O.D., MPH, M.Ed., installed as WCO president in September. “We feel strongly that potential solutions need to ensure equity, equality, affordability and accessibility of service and offer more than simply a pair of spectacles.
“Addressing vision problems includes ensuring that there are no underlying problems within the visual system or general health that may be uncovered by an eye exam,” Dr. Block, professor emeritus at the Illinois College of Optometry, adds.
Being named LRS committee chair in August affords Dr. Jordan the opportunity to see through an important LRS project.
WCO project to advance optometric care globally
During his earlier stint as a committee member of the LRS, he and other doctors of optometry worked on what could be considered a roadmap for elevating optometry in a country. That might mean creating foundational documents for a professional association, creating a pathway for recognition of optometry in a country’s health care delivery system or expanding the existing scope of practice in a nation.
Completion of the LRS Toolkit was a daunting task—it was years in the making and had to accommodate various changes and updates. In fact, the toolkit will be a “living” document with the committee being tasked with continually expanding and reviewing it for relevance and currency. See a preview.
“It will take people in those countries to get the ball rolling, so the WCO can get behind them,” says Dr. Jordan, who recently returned from Melbourne, Australia, for the 4th World Congress of Optometry. “We can’t do it for them. If the committee can help just one country move the profession forward, then we will have been successful.
He adds, “The ultimate goal would be to make optometry accessible to those more than 2 billion people. Eye care in the United States is phenomenal, and we need to say thank you to all those who have fought the fight over the last decades. This is what the world needs—those willing to fight and push for recognition of the profession worldwide over the next decades.”