Toral: Digitalization and myopia pandemic

(Janette Toral) 
(Janette Toral) 

Last week, I had my digital influencer meetup and eye check-up at Focal Sight UC Banilad where I had a great chat with Dr. Glenn de las Peñas who shared his advocacy for myopia preventive care.

Myopia, commonly known as nearsightedness, has rapidly escalated into a significant public health concern in the Philippines, affecting an estimated 40 percent of the population. The rise in myopia cases among children has been particularly alarming, with lifestyle changes and digital device usage as key contributing factors.

Urban lifestyles, characterized by high academic pressures and prolonged screen time, contribute to higher myopia rates compared to rural settings where outdoor activities are more common.

Kids as young as 1.5 years old have been exposed to gadgets already as part of their entertainment and pre-school learning. Mobile devices can be particularly straining due to their small screens that encourage closer viewing and smaller text, leading to more significant eye strain. Factors like screen brightness, distance from the screen, the duration of continuous use, and whether or not regular breaks are taken also play critical roles in how these devices impact eye health.

Myopia is not curable but it can be managed effectively with various treatments to prevent it from worsening. The focus is generally on managing the condition based on the severity and individual needs but commonly includes prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses, and refractive surgery for adults, such as Lasik. For children, additional treatments are used to slow the progression of myopia. Regular eye examinations are crucial for determining the most suitable treatment option.

Do we have a myopia pandemic?

The Department of Health labels the rising myopia rates as an epidemic, driven by modern lifestyle habits. This situation calls for immediate action to prevent a generational increase in vision problems.

Given the increasing prevalence and significant impact of myopia on children's health and daily activities, it would be prudent for local government units to recognize it as an epidemic. This recognition could help prioritize eye health in public health agendas, leading to better funding, targeted education programs, and specific preventive measures aimed at controlling and managing myopia effectively at the community level.

Strategies for intervention

Businesses can contribute to decreasing myopia cases by promoting a healthy work environment. Encourage breaks and design workspaces with adequate lighting to reduce eye strain for employees and their families.

Companies can also sponsor health programs. Support eye health programs and screenings, especially for the children of employees. Some eye healthcare providers, like Focal Sight, offer free myopia screening for kids to help parents manage it as early as possible.

The government can initiate widespread education campaigns focusing on the importance of regular eye check-ups and the benefits of outdoor activities.

Schools can implement structured outdoor breaks, reduce screen time, and educate parents and students about eye health can mitigate the onset of myopia.

Combating myopia in the Philippines requires a collaborative approach among the government, schools, parents, and healthcare providers. By embracing both preventive and treatment strategies, we can protect future generations from severe vision impairments.


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