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New report warns of Australian childhood myopia crisis

15/05/2019By Callum Glennen
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A new report has highlighted the growing public health crisis of childhood myopia in Australia and New Zealand and laid the groundwork for the development of a new recommended standard of care.

The report, titled ‘The Australia and New Zealand Child Myopia Report – A Focus on Future Management’ has been released by the Australia and New Zealand Child Myopia Working Group, an association convened by CooperVision Australia and New Zealand.

The report warns that by 2020, an increase in the prevalence of myopia and high myopia will result in more than 2 billion people worldwide being affected by the condition. Locally, it is predicted that 36% of Australians will be myopic by the year 2020. If left unchecked, that figure is set to increase to 55% by 2050.

It also detailed the current lack of understanding of the condition among parents. Less than 1% of Australian parents of children under the age of 12 believe reducing screen time is the best course of action for primary-school-aged children diagnosed with myopia, and less than 1% acknowledged the benefits of increasing the amount of time spent outdoors.

Additionally, 73% of parents do not know that genetics might influence the development of myopia in children, and 91% are not aware of the role that excessive screen time can play in its progression.

Joe Tanner
Joe Tanner
“We would recommend a shift from not only correcting vision but to also include a discussion with parents that explains what myopia is”
Joe Tanner, CooperVision

“Myopia is rapidly becoming a serious public health concern in Australia, yet new research shows that 65% of Australian parents (with children 0-17 years old) do not know what myopia is, and only 12% of parents recognise the health risk that their children might develop later in life from child myopia,” Dr Luke Arundel, chief clinical officer of Optometry Australia and member of the working group, said.

“This is of significant concern given that high myopia is also associated with comorbidities including retinal detachment, glaucoma, cataracts and myopic maculopathy. The risk of developing any of these conditions increases along with any increase in myopia.”

The research also revealed low visitation rates for optometry, with 44% of Australia children under the age of nine having not been to an optometrist for an eye examination. Many don’t go later in life, with 31% aged 17 years or under still never having been to an optometrist for an eye examination.

The report goes on to state that in light of these findings, the Australia and New Zealand Child Myopia Working Group plans to now develop a recommended standard of acre for child myopia in Australia and New Zealand.

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“There are a number of recognised treatment options with more being developed. All of these are available to optometry and are already in regular use. However, many practitioners have still to establish myopia management within their practices,” the report reads

Mr Joe Tanner, Professional Services Manager, CooperVision ANZ said the potential for future vision loss is alarming. “The newly established Child Myopia Working Group is an important initiative which aims to set a recommended standard of care for child myopia management in order to slow progression of myopia in children.

“We would recommend a shift from not only correcting vision but to also include a discussion with parents that explains what myopia is, lifestyle factors that can impact myopia, the increased risks to long-term ocular health that myopia brings, and the available approaches that can be used to treat myopia and slow its progression.”

The Working Group’s next aim is to set a recommended standard of care for child myopia management in order to slow progression of the condition.

 

More reading:

Myopia: A new opportunity
Australians leave mark on international myopia white paper series
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