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Estimated number of ophthalmologists worldwide (International Council of Ophthalmology update): will we meet the needs?
  1. Serge Resnikoff1,
  2. Van Charles Lansingh2,
  3. Lindsey Washburn3,
  4. William Felch3,
  5. Tina-Marie Gauthier3,
  6. Hugh R Taylor4,
  7. Kristen Eckert5,
  8. David Parke6,
  9. Peter Wiedemann3
  1. 1Brien Holden Vision Institute, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Help Me See, Instituto Mexicano de Oftalmologia, Queretaro, Mexico
  3. 3International Council of Ophthalmology, San Francisco, California, USA
  4. 4Melbourne School of Population Health, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  5. 5Independent Consultant, San Antonio Tlayacapan, Mexico
  6. 6American Academy of Ophthalmology, San Francisco, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Serge Resnikoff, Brien Holden Vision Institute, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia; serge.resnikoff{at}


Background/aims To estimate 2015 global ophthalmologist data and analyse their relationship to income groups, prevalence rates of blindness and visual impairment and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.

Methods Online surveys were emailed to presidents/chairpersons of national societies of ophthalmology and Ministry of Health representatives from all 194 countries to capture the number and density (per million population) of ophthalmologists, the number/density performing cataract surgery and refraction, and annual ophthalmologist population growth trends. Correlations between these data and income group, GDP per capita and prevalence rates of blindness and visual impairment were analysed.

Results In 2015, there were an estimated 232 866 ophthalmologists in 194 countries. Income was positively associated with ophthalmologist density (a mean 3.7 per million population in low-income countries vs a mean 76.2 in high-income countries). Most countries reported positive growth (94/156; 60.3%). There was a weak, inverse correlation between the prevalence of blindness and the ophthalmologist density. There were weak, positive correlations between the density of ophthalmologists performing cataract surgery and GDP per capita and the prevalence of blindness, as well as between GDP per capita and the density of ophthalmologists doing refractions.

Conclusions Although the estimated global ophthalmologist workforce appears to be growing, the appropriate distribution of the eye care workforce and the development of comprehensive eye care delivery systems are needed to ensure that eye care needs are universally met.

  • epidemiology
  • public health
  • treatment surgery

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  • Contributors All the authors contributed to the study concept/design, data collection, analysis and writing of this manuscript, and approved it for submission.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests KE was a paid consultant of VCL to this study.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the Instituto Mexicano de Oftalmología Ethics Committee (Queretaro, Mexico).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available on request.

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