Addressing a full theatre as keynote speaker at 100% Optical, CEO of the Brien Holden Vision Institute, Professor Naidoo, highlighted the growing issue of myopia globally.
“There are two billion myopes in the world right now, but by 2050 there will be five billion,” he warned, adding: “That represents 50% of the world’s population.”
Identifying myopia as the “likely biggest future public health challenge that the profession of optometry has ever faced,” Professor Naidoo discussed the growing global prevalence of the condition, as well as the interventions that are available and how myopia can be addressed by the profession.
He highlighted that if the estimated rise in myopia occurs, people will also be at an increased risk of developing myopic macular conditions, including cataracts, glaucoma and other retinal issues.
“This in turn will place an increased burden on our healthcare system in the future, especially the eye health system,” he said.
Looking to potential preventatives, Professor Naidoo explained that most people agree that if a child spends more than two hours outdoors daily, this risk will decrease. “We need to spread that message,” he stressed.
For long-term prevention to be effective, Professor Naidoo believes governments and the private sector need to “get on board.”
“We need to get governments involved in spreading that message and making it an integral part of the school system,” he said.
Professor Naidoo stressed that individual practitioners need to take responsibility too, “as no amount of donor funds is going to be able to address these challenges that we face.”
Encouraging practitioners to take action, he said: “Many of us are observing the enormity of this problem and saying that there is not much that we can do about it, but, on the contrary, I believe that we can achieve a lot if we work together.”
The Brien Holden Vision Institute is already working to address the increasing issue and has launched its Our Children’s Vision campaign as a result. The initiative, Professor Naidoo explained, recognises that 90 million children worldwide are vision impaired, and 90–95% of that number are so due to myopia.
Through this involvement, he estimates that eye care services can be provided to 50 million children by 2020.
Closing, Professor Naidoo stressed: “Every individual practitioner can make a difference. No matter what organisations and professional bodies do, if individual practitioners do not change their clinical practice, do not change their health promotion strategies and do not change their discourse with patients, in 2050 this world will be in a crisis in terms of eye care.”
Watch OT’s interview with Professor Naidoo above.