Campaign calls for more conversations about myopia
#MyopiaChat aims to encourage one million conversations about myopia between parents and eye care professionals in 2022
16 December 2021
A campaign has been launched to encourage more discussions about myopia between optometrists and parents, alongside a petition that is calling on the Government to fund awareness campaigns and treatments.
The #MyopiaChat campaign is hoping to inspire 1 million conversations about myopia between parents and eye care professionals in the UK in 2022.
In addition, the multiple-pronged campaign aims to spark conversations between parents in the community, as well as within the optical industry and with the Government.
The campaign has been launched by Tom Griffiths, an entrepreneur who recently joined Scotlens after seeing the benefits of myopia control devices for his own myopic son. Beginning as a volunteer parent case study, Griffiths now aims to help “engage both the public and the industry together in a way to deliver constructive change.”
A key component of the campaign is a Change.org petition, which has been created to motivate the Government to take steps to address myopia. Campaigners are inviting eye care professionals to sign the petition by 31 May 2022.
The petition calls on the UK Government to agree to a UK Myopia Strategy by 31 December 2022. This should be developed in consultation with the devolved Governments, the campaigners said, and by engaging with the optical profession to address key issues, such as the implications of myopia and the costs.
The petition also urges the Government to fund myopia awareness campaigns targeted at parents from the first quarter of 2023, and to agree to consider and fund myopia reduction treatments for all children in the UK by 2024.
Research has suggested that 50% of the world will be myopic by 2050. Describing this as a “myopia epidemic,” campaigners have suggested that when the effects of this are seen in the future it will “cost the UK more to fix then, than to prevent now.”
The campaign has identified three problems with how myopia is discussed and treated in the UK currently. The first is the use of the colloquial term ‘short-sighted’ rather than the medical term of myopia when talking to parents of children with signs of the eye condition.
With more myopia management options available, the campaign emphasised: “Parents have a right… to be made aware of all the management/control options.”
Finally, as these treatment options are not currently available on the NHS, there are concerns, the campaign illustrated, that the costs might prohibit access for lower income families.
A personal experienceSpeaking to OT, Griffiths shared that his passion for myopia awareness stems from an experience of myopia in his family. At nine years old, his son was told he was short-sighted and received glasses. Over the next four years he lost 1.00D/ year.
“He stopped playing sports, he had to sit at the front of the class, and he lost his confidence. It broke our hearts,” Griffiths shared.
A playground conversation between parents led the family to learn more about myopia and seek out treatment options, seeing their son regain his confidence along with his love for sports.
“If you had high blood pressure, which is linked to heart disease, your doctor would tell you,” Griffiths said. “We just felt as parents that we should know.”
The aim of the campaign is “a big conversation,” supported by resources, to help parents consider what they need to know about the condition, and to share tips for practitioners.
“This is the conversation I would have liked to have had,” Griffiths said.
The campaigners highlighted that the one million conversations target equates to three conversations per week in practice, something eye care professionals are already doing.