COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF THE 46th NATIONAL CONFERENCE/VISION EXPO AND AGM OF THE NIGERIAN OPTOMETRIC ASSOCIATION (NOA) HELD BETWEEN 19TH – 22ND JULY, 2023 AT THE DOME EVENT CENTRE, ASABA DELTA STATE
The Nigerian Optometric Association (NOA) is the umbrella body of over 6000 Nigerian optometrists united by the twin objectives of enhancing the visual health of Nigerians and promoting the optometric profession in Nigeria.
The 46th National Conference/Vision Expo and AGM of the NOA held at The Dome Event Centre, Asaba Delta State from 20th to 22nd July 2023. The theme of the event was “The Optometrist: An indispensable Partner in Health Care Delivery”. In attendance were over 1200 participants drawn from different sectors of the economy: optometrists from both private and public sectors, international delegates, speakers, guests, exhibitors among others.
Conference activities were preceded by a free Vision Screening exercise held at the palace of the Asagba of Asaba on Wednesday 19thJuly, 2023. Beneficiaries, drawn from a segment of the society and numbering over 100, were given medications and prescription glasses. Pre-Conference workshops on Slit Lamp Biomicroscopy and on Research Process and Presentation were held to usher in the conference proper.
The Chief Host, the Executive Governor of Delta State, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. (Elder) Sheriff F.O. Oborevwori was ably represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Kingsley Emu. Other dignitaries at the occasion includes chairman of the occasion, Prof. Sam Oyovbaire,former Minister of Information, Deputy Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly, who represented the Hon. Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Guwor Emomotimi Dennis, Permanent Secretary, Delta State Ministry of Health Dr (Mrs) Philomena Okeowo, eminent Traditional rulers including Her Royal Majesty, Obi Martha Dunkwu, the Omu of Anioma who was the Royal Mother of the day, Pharm. Paul Enebeli, Hon. James Augoye of the Delta State House of Assembly among others.
In his address, the NOA President, Dr Obinna Awiaka, pointed out that the conference always aim at improving human capacity, professional advancement, and policy transformation in eye care services in Nigeria. He further advocated for continued
funding of the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Registration Board of Nigeria (ODORBN) by the federal government so as to help the agency improve and sustain its statutory functions.
The keynote address was presented by former Attorney-General of Delta State, legal luminary and Paul Harris Fellow, Dr. Peter Adogbejire Mrakpor (SAN). He chronicled the indispensable roles Optometrists are playing in improving lives, self-esteem, and endeavours that Nigerians engage in. He pointed out that ignorance is the bane of vision loss and called on the public to improve on their health seeking behaviours when it comes to vision care. He further called for the continuous development of Optometry practice, research and need for the public to visit the Optometrist as the primary eye care provider who is proficient in delivering quality, efficient and accessible eye care in Nigeria in line with global best practices.
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, health systems leadership, among other key roles were adequately highlighted.
Other eminent scholars and speakers also gave thought-provoking and enriching lectures after the opening ceremony.
In his address while declaring the conference open, the Chief Host and the Executive Governor of Delta State thanked the members of the Optometry profession on the significant role they play as indispensable partners in health care delivery and promised that soon more healthcare providers will be employed in the Primary Health Centres in the state, to help in meeting the challenges of health care delivery in Delta state.
The meeting was concluded with the election of new Executive Council officers led by the Dr Chimeziri Anderson as the President and Dr Victor K. Aliche as the National Secretary. Nine (9) members of the association were awarded Fellowship, FNOA during the Dinner/Award night that concluded the four (4)- day event.
The Nigerian Optometric Association (NOA) rose from the conference with the following resolutions:
The NOA seizes this golden opportunity to congratulate His Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR on his election as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and to wish him well as he navigates the country out of her current economic and security woes.
The NOA noted the following:
a.That over 1 billion people globally will be blind by 2025 and this will affect productivity, national growth, and family life if adequate interventions are not effected.
b.Currently, the state of primary health care facilities functioning in Nigeria are alarmingly low.
c.That about 80% of more than 6000 optometrists in Nigeria are in the private sector leaving only about 20% 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.
d.NOA reaffirms that ignorance and poor accessibility are some of the major cause of vision impairment and loss.
e.Poor out-door/prolonged near work activities like use of computers, telephones, TV, laptop, eye pads are major causes of eye and vision problems.
f.NOA reaffirm that a single comprehensive eye exam conducted by an optometrist can lead to variety of favourable outcomes which ranges from discovery of previously undetected eye and health problems like glaucoma, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other health conditions.
g.NOA also reaffirm 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.
h.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.
NOA therefore recommends:
a. That the federal government should pay compelling attention to the health sector especially primary health care, for a strong and healthy nation to emerge. Government should provide necessary environment for people to access quality and efficient eye care services;
b. That the NOA and Optometrists should review and play over the challenges impeding this all-important profession and always ensure that all the knowledge and expertise which the profession has gained through huge sacrifice is continually preserved, fine-tuned and multiplied for the benefit of mankind;
c. That 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;
d.That parents are 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. 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;
e.Government should enact policies to ensure that equipment required by Optometrists are not excessively taxed while being imported into the Country;
f. 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 Centers to function effectively;
g. While the NOA appreciates the Federal Government for its support over the years, especially in the employment of Optometrists into the Armed Forces, the NOA herein appeals 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;
h. 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;
i. 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;
j. 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.
Dr. Anderson Chimeziri, FNOA, FNCO Dr Victor K. Aliche
President National Secretary