BHVI Hanoi Optometry School
The first students of optometry at Hanoi Medical University (HMU) and its School of Optometry have graduated. The HMU cohort of 43 optometry graduates join their 12 recently qualified colleagues from the University of Medicine Pham Ngoc Thach (UPNT), in a growing workforce of locally-trained optometrists.
Vietnam now has a pipeline of optometrists who will emerge over the coming years to serve the needs of the growing population.
A few years ago in 2013, there were only three qualified optometrists practising in Vietnam to serve a population of 90 million. Today there are 55 optometrists qualified to provide eye care to a population close to 94 million.
The future looks brighter, with more than 300 optometry students enrolled in the four-year program, between HMU and UPNT. By 2020, there will be more than 150 qualified optometrists, a crucial step towards achieving the World Health Organization’s recommendation of at least one optometrist for every 50,000 people by 2020 and bridging the sizable gap in eye care service provision in Vietnam.
But the need for optometrists in Vietnam is great with an estimated 21 million people who require eye care services unable to access an optometrist, eye examinations or glasses.1
“Our eye care prevalence show very high uncorrected refractive error rates of 11.4%, particularly in the 50+ age group. In fact the figures showed that 10.5 million people over the age of 50 years did not have the glasses they needed for near vision. A recent research study conducted in Vietnam found that 21.4% of school children have uncorrected refractive errors in some regions,” said Ms Huynh Phuong Ly, Country Representative, Brien Holden Vision Institute.
Brien Holden Vision Institute’s strategy is to eliminate avoidable blindness due to uncorrected refractive error in Vietnam by developing workforce infrastructure through optometry and policy change, by participating in writing the national eye care plans with the ministries, as well as peak and global bodies.
The Institute, with support through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program, was integral to launching HMU’s first optometry degree. The program was piloted in 2014 at the University of Medicine Pham Ngoc Thach (UPNT) in Ho Chi Minh City – a joint venture between the Institute, UPNT and Ho Chi Minh City Eye Hospital. One year later in 2015, a parallel program followed suit in the north at Hanoi Medical University (HMU).
HMU, established in 1902, is the oldest University in Vietnam. Although it has a long tradition of producing high quality medical doctors, it is also in the forefront of modernisation and development of medical education in Vietnam. HMU is embracing and supporting the new profession of optometry for Vietnam.
The Institute has thanked the individuals, organisations and funders such as Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Optometry Giving Sight for their continuing support. The big aim is to help everyone, everywhere across the nation get access to the eye care and the glasses they need to allow their futures to be full of opportunity.
- Flaxman et al. Global causes of blindness and distance vision impairment 1990–2020: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet Global Health. Published online October 11, 2017 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(17)30393-5