Did you know that 65% of Singaporean children below 11 years old are already myopic?
In 2019, the country even ranked first internationally for the prevalence of childhood myopia. For parents, this is an alarming statistic because children with childhood myopia are more likely to develop high myopia (500 degrees) later on in life.
Having high myopia doesn’t just entail the inconvenience of having to wear thicker glasses — without proper eye care and intervention, it can lead to serious eye diseases like cataracts, glaucoma, retinal tears and detachments and even blindness.
Myopia, also known as short-sightedness, happens when far away objects look blurry as the eyeball has grown longer. Light rays from an object enter the eye and focus in front of the retina instead of on the retina. In Singapore, a myopic person has the eyesight of at least -50 degrees.
What causes myopia?
Myopia occurs when the eyeball is too long or the cornea (the protective outer layer of the eye) is too curved. This develops gradually or rapidly, but is most often aggravated during childhood and adolescence. Scientists have yet to pinpoint the exact causes of myopia but say that factors such as genetics could increase the likelihood of developing it.
The answer to childhood myopia prevention: outdoor playtime
Research reveals that exposure to sunlight helps to prevent the elongation of the eyeball, a cause of myopia. Furthermore, studies also show that spending time outdoors allows one to more easily achieve a greater depth of field, leading to less eye strain and less blurry vision.
Therefore, the Health Promotion Board and Singapore National Eye Centre both recommend that aside from proper eye care, children should have at least two hours of outdoor playtime daily to combat childhood myopia.
SuperVision Encourages: the SuperVision Challenge
In line with this, SuperVision, in partnership with Singapore National Eye Centre, embarks on a health communications campaign that brings more awareness to childhood myopia in Singapore — launching a month-long digital challenge from 18 January to 14 February 2021. Entitled SuperVision Challenge, it aims to encourage parents to take their primary school children outdoors more regularly.
Parents will collect points with each Facebook submission and can check on their progress via the leaderboard on the SuperVision website. Prizes worth up to S$4,000 await families who submit the most entries of them outdoors. To accompany this, there will be free weekend outdoor classes hosted at imPAct @ Hong Lim Green that parents and their children can take part in as well.
More information on childhood myopia in Singapore: SuperVision Empowers
To empower parents with the right myopia knowledge and resources, bite-sized infographics about all things myopia will be disseminated through SuperVision’s social media channels and website. Topics covered include sharing the latest myopia research, debunking myopia and eye care myths, and addressing parents’ questions.
SuperVision will also release a teleVision series in February, where eye care experts share their research on myopia and eye care advice for parents. Interview profiles include Dr Harold Choi from Eagle Eye Centre and Dr Carla Lança from Singapore Eye Research Institute.
Dr Carla Lança is a Research Fellow at the Myopia Unit, Singapore Eye Research Institute. She is also a project coordinator of the Growing Up in Singapore Towards Healthy Outcomes myopia study, where mothers are monitored through pregnancy, post-partum and as the babies grow up. The study hopes to gather findings that will help to improve the health of Singaporeans from gestation.
A good start towards better eye care for children
What better way to the new year than by setting a cultivating better eye care knowledge and habits? With these resources from SuperVision and the Singapore National Eye Centre, parents now have information on how to prevent childhood myopia in Singapore. And by taking part in the SuperVision Challenge, they stand a chance to win amazing prizes such as Karting Passes, Mega Adventure passes, My Fishing Frenzy Academy Beginners Angler Course passes, and even a Capitol Optical Orthokeratology Treatment for 1 year!
After all, aside from helping prevent childhood myopia, heading outdoors together is a great way for families to get much-needed family bonding time, all while promoting good physical health.