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App targeting childhood myopia to launch Australia

28/11/2018By Myles Hume
An app that manages screen time to mitigate myopia onset in children will soon be available to the Australian market.

The plano app, downloaded almost 200,000 times since launching last year in Asia, allows parents to control device time for their children and analyse data to ensure screens are being used at safe distances.

Researchers, including those at the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA), have linked excessive device use and reduced time spent outdoors in child and teenage years with myopia. The condition affects around four million Australians, however, studies suggest it will increase four-fold by 2050 if adjustments aren’t made to current lifestyle trends.

“It is critical that we intervene early to reduce the risk of children developing sight-threatening myopia,” plano CEO and founder Dr Mo Dirani said.

“It is critical that we intervene early to reduce the risk of children developing sight-threatening myopia.”
Mo Dirani, Plano

“If left unaddressed, this issue will critically worsen in the next 10 years and plano aims to work with governments, industry players and other important stakeholders to combat this growing problem.”

The app plays in the background of phones and tablets, and reminds users to hold the device at a healthy distance from their eyes and to take regular breaks.

Through Plano, parents can restrict when and where the device is used and control access to apps. The app also screens for myopia and monitors behaviour patterns, which are then fed into algorithms that filter information and generate reports to parents to ensure timely eye check-ups.

Plano initially launched in Singapore in 2017, and has since expanded into Malaysia and India. Co-founder and managing director Mr Kelvin Eng said the company’s market research had also identified interest from Australian families.

“Other than live interventions, parents also get a weekly informative digital health report where it provides proxies on digital eye strain, digital eye behaviour and other key information,” he said.

“Together, they help to foster good device behaviour and teach both children and parents how to avoid the pitfalls of excessive device usage and establish a healthy relationship with emerging technology.”

CERA managing director Dr Peter Wijingaarden said: “Plano is a smart solution that helps to develop healthier device use behaviour and increase awareness of eye health.”

AFT Pharmaceuticals

A 2015 report by the World Health Organisation and Australia’s Brien Holden Vision Institute estimated the annual global direct cost of treating and managing myopia was US$328 billion (AU$449 b).

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