Reversing the myopia trend: a public health approach

December 6, 2022

On World Sight Day, EssilorLuxottica hosted a live panel discussion titled ‘Reversing the myopia trend: a public health approach’, The session was moderated by Olga Prenat, Head, Medical Marketing, Professional Relations and Vision Care Education, EssilorLuxottica, and Prof. Kovin Naidoo, Global Head, Advocacy and Partnerships, OneSight EssilorLuxottica Foundation.

Renowned experts from EssilorLuxottica’s partner organizations, Prof. Serge Resnikoff, International Myopia Institute Chair; Dr. Paul Gifford, Director and Founder, Myopia Profile; and Dr. Millicent Knight, Global Myopia Awareness Coalition (GMAC) Board Chair, shared their expert insights and inspiring conversations on how to address one of the most significant public health issues of our time.

The discussion began by discussion on the rising global prevalence, the impact of myopia and high myopia on vision impairment, blindness, and on productivity, highlighting the reality that addressing myopia from both a clinical and public health perspective is imperative to bring about a paradigm shift. The panelists discussed actions their organizations are taking to tackle myopia and how this trend can be reversed in the next few years.

One of the reasons for myopia to become a recognized global public health issue recently was the availability of substantial international data on prevalence. The second reason was the change in perception that it was not just an issue affecting Asia, but the world. The myopia prevalence paper led by the late Prof. Brien Holden and the scientific meeting held by Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI) in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO) provided the necessary impetus. The third reason was the growing evidence of the impact of myopia, leading to irreversible vision loss, followed by the recognition that each and every diopter counts. Finally, the availability of myopia management interventions and involvement of many stakeholders in myopia, including industry, civil society and clinicians and pediatricians, is pushing the myopia agenda forward.

A key organization that has worked to improve public awareness is GMAC. Its mission is to promote public awareness of myopia, encourage early and regular comprehensive eye exams for children and advocate for the use of myopia management solutions that have been shown to slow the progression of myopia. GMAC was formed in 2019 with a membership of leading eye care companies, associations and media organizations. It began with a pivotal myopia awareness survey and launched several awareness campaigns in the USA initially, which have collectively garnered 862 million impressions and 2.2 million video views so far. Moving forward, GMAC will continue to encourage regular eye exams, ensure that clinicians provide advice on managing digital devices and time outdoors as part of their protocols, build awareness of myopia management solutions shown to slow the progression of myopia, and seek to influence policy by partnering with like-minded organizations. GMAC will also develop permanent assets and resources, and partner with media, associations, insurance, industry, and everybody who has direct touchpoints with the patients. EssilorLuxottica is a leading member of GMAC since its foundation in 2019.

Myopia Profile is another partner organization actively involved in practitioner education and public awareness. Myopia Profile recognized early on that practitioners were interested in myopia and attending conferences, but were not utilizing that knowledge. They realized the need for an accessible and easy-to-understand education and awareness pathway to translate science into clinical practice. Their goal is to create that pathway, and their three pillars include providing education to practitioners, building evidence-based clinical resources to translate research into practice, and increasing public awareness. Myopia Profile achieved more than 12 million engagements across its platforms in the last year, and its Facebook group with more than 11,000 members, is the go-to destination for practitioners to discuss real life cases and learn from each other. Myopia Profile is currently expanding its platforms to increase content access and streamline clinical applications for practitioners.

Another global partner organization is the International Myopia Institute (IMI). IMI was established after the WHO scientific meeting in 2015, to help make the latest myopia research accessible for practitioners. They developed a series of white papers in 2019 and another series of white papers in 2021, continuing to build on the evidence-base for implementing myopia management. Each paper is developed by a taskforce of clinicians and scientists and the papers are published in a peer-reviewed journal, Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS). In addition, IMI has transformed the white papers into clinical summaries for practitioners and translated them into more than 25 languages. IMI is now working on a new series of white papers and is also producing an update in the field of white papers.

The OneSight EssilorLuxottica Foundation is also working to improve access to vision care, with the aim to eliminate uncorrected poor vision in one generation. As myopia control solutions are not available to everyone yet, getting even myopia correction to children is a priority and the foundation’s aim in that process of ensuring myopia correction, is to also help bring in myopia control practices, especially behavior change. Central to the foundation’s approach is awareness, so it is committed to disseminating important messages around lifestyle changes and time outdoors. Lastly, as partnerships help achieve scale, a recent partnership that the Foundation announced was with the Berkeley Vision Institute. It is a global founding partner of the One School at a Time campaign, a partnership aimed at reaching school children through vision screening events and school eye health programs and awareness initiatives. This can contribute significantly to tackling myopia.

Finally, with over 30 years of expertise in myopia, EssilorLuxottica, together with its partners are helping to address myopia by acting on three pillars: advancing myopia research; developing innovative solutions; and improving education, awareness and access to vision care. The Essilor® Stellest™ lens for myopia control is a great example, available in more than 20 countries today.

While panelists discussed how they are working actively to tackle myopia, a consensus emerged that there was still much to be done together to move the needle. The panelists also discussed their views on how long it would take to reverse this public health trend:

  • Several factors such as legislation, accessibility and affordability of technology may have an impact in countries. So, it is critical to push for access to myopia correction first, which could be a springboard when myopia control becomes available in that country.
  • It is important to stress on the sense of urgency around myopia, because if nothing is done with a child who is becoming myopic or progressing quickly, it is a lost opportunity forever. There is no room for not taking action, as there are solutions available now.
  • Myopia needs to be a coordinated effort addressed from various aspects including behavioral change, clinical interventions, policy change and awareness.
  • Practitioners have the education base, and are ready to translate that into clinical practice. They have a whole suite of solutions with myopia control glasses in some countries. Supporting and giving them tools to help them communicate messages to parents is key.
  • Myopia was not on the radar of WHO a few years ago. Recently, effective coverage of refractive errors has been adopted as one of the main indicators to follow the development of access to universal health coverage, which is a huge step forward. WHO also recently launched the MyopiaEd initiative.

The panel concluded that myopia demands a multifactorial, integrated approach to achieve the scale needed. It is imperative to first get people to understand the importance of early intervention, and then ensure that they have access to the appropriate interventions. Collectively, it is important to ensure that public health, policy and clinical issues are aligned, as failure to do so will prevent stakeholders from addressing myopia. History will judge the world very harshly if all relevant stakeholders don’t rise to this challenge today.

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