On the eve of World Sight Day on 10 October, Hamilton optometry practices Rose Optometrists, Visique Rototuna, and Total Vision Optometrists are launching a myopia (or short-sightedness) awareness campaign with local schools and General Practitioners. The aim is to drive education about prevention and management of the global myopia epidemic’s effects on New Zealand children.

The awareness campaign, being implemented over the next couple of months and offering free myopia information sessions to local families, is supported by The Cornea and Contact Lens Society of New Zealand (CCLSNZ) and the NZ Myopia Action Group.

Short-sightedness or near-sightedness are the everyday terms for myopia – an eye condition that causes blurred distance vision. However, the prevalence of myopia around the world is growing at an alarming rate and poses a serious public health risk in many countries.

Research shows that 69% of New Zealand parents do not know what myopia is and worryingly only 10% of NZ parents know of the lifestyle factors that can 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).2 The majority of myopia progression typically occurs between the ages of 6-173 as this is a key growth time for children, and their eyes.

Mr Jagrut Lallu, Rose Optometrists comments, “The three local optometry practices will be hosting an educational seminar open to all teachers, plus an educational meeting open to all GPs, in the Hamilton area. We are keen to talk to teachers about what can be implemented at a school level and in the classroom environment to help reduce the risk of students developing myopia, such as myopia breaks. We also see local GPs as key partners to assist us in promoting public health awareness about myopia to the families that come into their surgeries, and where needed to encourage them to seek advice from their local optometrist.”

To support this initiative the three local practices have free myopia information sessions available to local families, to discuss the risk and progression of myopia using the latest predictive calculators.

Staggeringly 40% of New Zealand children have not been to an optometrist to have an eye examination before their ninth birthday.4 Mr Lallu concludes, “Our primary aim is to talk to teachers and GPs about raising awareness of myopia and by doing so to encourage parents to visit their local optometrist to discuss the issue, have their child/childrens’ eyes examined and if indicated, undertake a myopia management plan. Slowing the progression of myopia is critical.” Dates relating to the upcoming teacher and GP educational meetings will be communicated directly to local schools and GP practices in the area

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