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HomeminewsChild Myopia: A Looming Public Health Crisis for Australia and New Zealand

Child Myopia: A Looming Public Health Crisis for Australia and New Zealand

Today marks the official launch of The Australia and New Zealand Child Myopia Report – A Focus on Future Management. This report, launched by the Australia and New Zealand Child Myopia Working Group, brings together the latest evidence-based data to better understand this looming public health issue of myopia facing Australian and New Zealand children.

Myopia is forecast to reach epidemic proportions.1 Alarmingly, increases in the global prevalence of myopia and high myopia (a refractive error* of at least -5.00D in either eye)1 mean that by 2020, it is estimated that more than two billion people worldwide will be affected.1 By 2050, it is estimated that more than 50% of the world’s population will have myopia and 10% or almost one billion will have high myopia.1 36% of Australians are predicted to be myopic by 2020 and by 2050, that number is set to increase to 55%.2

The likelihood of developing myopia, particularly high myopia increases when one or both parents are myopic.8

Luke Arundel, Chief Clinical Officer, Optometry Australia, comments, “Worryingly, new research3 shows that 65% of Australian parents (with children 0-17 years old) and 69% of New Zealand parents do not know what myopia is, and only 12% of parents in both countries recognise the health risk that their children might develop later in life from child myopia. In addition to this, and a really important insight, is that 76% and 77% of Australian and New Zealand parents respectively (of children under 12 years old) believe being prescribed glasses is the best course of action if a primary school age child is diagnosed with myopia.3

“At a time when the profession’s focus is on the importance of managing myopia and ultimately slowing its progression, it is key to have a recommended standard of care that shifts from not only correcting vision but to also include a discussion with parents that explains what myopia is, the increased risks to long-term ocular health myopia brings, and the available approaches that can be used to treat myopia.”

Andrew Sangster, New Zealand optometrist and Board Member of the NZ Association of Optometrists adds, “One reason for the increase in prevalence of high myopia is that the onset of myopia is occurring earlier in life. In 1983, the typical onset of myopia was at around 11 years of age. However, in 2000, the average onset of myopia was just eight years of age.4 Reducing the prevalence and impact of myopia and understanding influencing factors is critical.”

A discussion with parents is needed in the practice to drive greater understanding of the two main risk factors for a child developing myopia: lifestyle and family history.

Lifestyle: modern lifestyles may influence the development of myopia. These include:
• Low levels of outdoor activity5 and associated factors including:
• Low levels of light exposure6
• Prolonged near tasks7 such as reading.

Family History

The likelihood of developing myopia, particularly high myopia increases when one or both parents are myopic.8 However the exact link between a family history of myopia and the development of childhood myopia remains uncertain.9

Lifestyle

It seems very little is known about lifestyle impacts on myopia. Less than 1% of Australian and New Zealand parents of children aged under 12 years say reducing screen time is the best course of action for primary school aged children diagnosed with myopia, and less than 1% acknowledged the role of increasing the amount of time spent outdoors.10

91% of Australian parents and 93% of New Zealand parents are not aware of the role that prolonged near tasks such as reading or gaming on portable devices can play in myopia prevalence and progression. 73% of Australian parents and 70% of New Zealand parents do not know that genetics might influence the development of myopia in children.10

Joe Tanner, Professional Services Manager, CooperVision ANZ says, “The potential for future vision loss is alarming, so initiatives that highlight the rise of child myopia are an important step in reducing its prevalence and impact. The newly established Child Myopia Working Group, enabled by CooperVision Australia and New Zealand, 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.”

Key Australian Statistics10

• 76% of parents of children under 12 years old believe being prescribed glasses is the best course of action if a primary school age child is diagnosed with myopia. In fact, there are many treatment options that should be discussed when managing myopia.
• Almost half (49%) of Australian parents of children aged 17 years and under admit they do not know what causes myopia.
• Only 12% of parents know of the lifestyle factors that have an impact on child myopia (low levels of outdoor activity, low levels of light exposure and prolonged near tasks such as reading and gaming on portable devices).
• 31% of Australian kids (17 years and under) have never been to an Optometrist to have an eye test.
• 44% of children have not been to an Optometrist to have an eye test before their ninth birthday.

New Zealand Statistics10

• 77% of parents of children under 12 years old believe being prescribed glasses is the best course of action if a primary school age child is diagnosed with myopia.
• Almost half (46%) of New Zealand parents of children aged 17 years and under admit they do not know what causes myopia.
• Only 10% of parents know of the lifestyle factors that have an impact on child myopia (low levels of outdoor activity, low levels of light exposure, prolonged near tasks such as reading and gaming on portable devices).
• 28% of New Zealand kids (17 years and under) have never been to have an eye examination.
• 40% of New Zealand children have not been to an Optometrist to have an eye examination before their ninth birthday.

To download a free copy of the report visit www.childmyopia.com

References:
1. The Impact of Myopia and High Myopia: Report of the Joint World Health Organization – Brien Holden Vision Institute Global Scientific Meeting on Myopia. University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. 16-18 March 2015
2. Holden B; Fricke T; Wilson D et al. Global Prevalence of Myopia and High Myopia and Temporal Trends from 2000 to 2050. American Academy of Ophthalmology. 2016
3. CooperVision Australia and New Zealand: Child Myopia in Australia and New Zealand – Consumer Perceptions Surveys. Conducted by YouGovGalaxy August/September 2018, conducted by YouGovGalaxy between Wednesday 29 August and Monday 3 September 2018. The sample comprised 1,003 Australian parents and 500 New Zealand parents of children at home aged 0-18 years.
4. Lin LL, Shih YF, Hsiao CK et al. Prevalence of Myopia in Taiwanese School Children: 1983 to 2000. Ann Acad Med Singapore. 2004; 33:27-33
5. He M, Xiang F, Zeng Y et al. Effect of Time Spent Outdoors at School on the Development of Myopia Among Children in China: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA 2015; 314:1142-1148
6. Read SA, Collins MJ, Vincent SJ. Light Exposure and Eye Growth in Childhood. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science 2015: 56(11):6779-6787
7. Ip JM, Saw SM, Rose KA, Morgan IG, Kifley A, Wang JJ, Mitchell P. Role of Near Work in Myopia: Findings in a Sample of Australian School Children. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science 2008:49(7):2903-2910
8. Lim LT, Gong Y, Ah-Kee EY, Xiao G, Zhang X. Impact of parental history of myopia on the development of myopia in mainland China school-aged children. Ophthalmology and Eye Disease. 2014;6:31-5
9. Ip J, Huynh S, Robaei D, Rose K, Morgan I, Smith W, Kifley A, Mitchell P. Ethnic differences in the impact of parental myopia: Findings from a population-based study of 12-year old Australian children. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science. 2007:48:2520-2528
10. CooperVision Australia and New Zealand, op.cit.