This study aimed to assess the capacity for ophthalmic education in the 8 South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries and to determine the need and future projections of eye health professionals in the region.
This was a retrospective study and comprised desk review and Web-based questionnaire.
Developed in the Asia Pacific region, the Capacity Assessment Tool for SAARC Eye Care Education, a Web-based survey mechanism derived from a 12-point framework, was used to collect data on the number of ophthalmologists and other eye care personnel, training institutions, and capacity for training in each SAARC country.
There are an estimated 17,568 practicing ophthalmologists and 4086 ophthalmic subspecialists in the SAARC region. The population per ophthalmologist is approximately 92,270. Allied eye health professionals constitute an important element of the eye health workforce and have a population per allied eye health professional of approximately 99,852; the ophthalmologist to doctor (physician) ratio is 1:61. There are more than 510 centers providing ophthalmology training and more than 32 centers providing subspecialty training; ophthalmic subspecialty training varies from a 3-month observership to a 12-month hands-on training.
In the SAARC region, the challenge is to sustain and increase the eye health workforce to meet the needs of a growing and aging population. The demographic transitions, improved child survival and life expectancy rates, and emerging noncommunicable disease trends require training of ophthalmic subspecialists and supporting eye care teams to meet the service delivery demands of changing eye health paradigms.