‘What about the environment?’ Optometrists tackle climate change

As the Welsh Optometric Committee (WOC) issues a “climate emergency” declaration, Kathy Oxtoby speaks to Tim Morgan MCOptom at Health Education and Improvement Wales on the implications for the profession.

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The UK is experiencing more extreme weather, such as flash flooding, creeping sea levels and rising temperatures, which are creating pollution, increased allergens, a fall in water quality and an increased spread of disease.

In August, the Welsh Optometric Committee (WOC) the advisory body to the Welsh Government on matters relating to optometry and the optometric profession – issued a “climate emergency” declaration (see box out).

“The committee recognised climate change is an urgent crisis, and it acknowledged that healthcare delivery contributes to that climate change,” says Tim Morgan MCOptom, a Welsh Clinical Fellow for Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) – who reports to and works closely with the Welsh Government – and an optometrist at Buckley Eyecare, North Wales.

In declaring this emergency, Tim says the WOC, and by extension NHS Wales and the Welsh Government, “acknowledges that with every discussion about service improvement or delivery, and at every stage of an evaluation of our current services, we must ask: ‘What about the environment?’”

But how big an impact can Wales really have, when countries like China produce more greenhouse gas emissions than all developed countries combined (Larsen et al, 2021)? Tim says: “It’s better to have an impact, however small, than to have no impact. If you start to take action, others follow your lead.”

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