Media Release For Immediate Release
Singapore National Eye Centre to ramp up efforts on “War on Myopia” in Singapore
Singapore, 16 August 2019 – Widely referred to as the myopia capital of the world, Singapore’s landscape for myopia is severe, with one of the highest levels of myopia worldwide. The proliferation of myopia, or “near-sightedness”, is growing rapidly with 50% of the world’s population projected to be affected with the eye condition by the year 20501. 20% of Singapore children are myopic by the age of 7, with the prevalence exceeding 70% upon completion of tertiary education2. With the growing prevalence of myopia in Singapore, the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) and Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI) are stepping up efforts on their “war on myopia” to prevent, control and increase early detection of myopia. These efforts include the development of partnerships with international organizations, other national institutions and relevant eye care professionals, collaborating with stakeholders to advance clinical research, the setting up of a clinic specifically to tackle myopia, and increased public education.
“There is a pressing need to take steps towards improving the understanding of myopia, with an aim to reduce its prevalence and impact in Singapore,” said Professor Wong Tien Yin, Medical Director of SNEC. “As such, in addition to our focus on clinical service, SNEC has put in place a range of developments and partnerships with international and national organizations with a strong focus on research, innovation, education and advocacy of myopia prevention to tackle the problem at its roots.”
Partnerships with Tertiary Institutions and Eye Care Professionals
With patient’s needs as a key priority, it is crucial to strengthen the capabilities of budding eye care professionals who will contribute to the future of Singapore’s eye care education and healthcare practice. As part of the efforts towards education, SNEC has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Singapore Polytechnic on Friday, 16 August 2019 at the Myopia Centre. This MOU seeks to foster the collaboration between SNEC and Singapore Polytechnic for the improvement of optometry training for students. Optometry students and graduates from Singapore Polytechnic can participate in clinical attachments and internship programmes at the Myopia Centre, to enhance their skills and knowledge, and develop professionally in the optometry field. It will also allow for eye care professionals to share their knowledge and expertise and create valuable learning opportunities to enhance the capabilities of optometry students in training. In turn, this helps to enable better and more coordinated care for our patients.
“Working with SNEC Myopia Centre allows our Diploma in Optometry students to further experience first-hand the challenges in managing myopia and other eye disorders within the community,” said Dr Adrian Yeo Chao Chuang, Director of the School of Chemical & Life Sciences at Singapore Polytechnic. “This unique learning experience will serve them in good stead as they play a bigger role in tackling challenges posed by the myopia epidemic in Singapore.”
In addition to this, SNEC will also embark on key partnerships with eye care professionals in the community, including optometrists, GPs and polyclinics, as well as launch key initiatives in conjunction with the Health Promotion Board.
Increased awareness and education with the launch of the children’s book on myopia
SNEC also launched a beautifully illustrated children’s picture book on myopia, titled “Amanda the Panda: Outdoor play keeps myopia away”. Through the story, children will be able to learn about myopia in a fun and engaging way, including the benefits of engaging in two hours of outdoor activity daily – one of the preventive means to reduce myopia and improve overall 3 physical and mental health. The book, co-authored by the clinical directors of the Myopia Centre and published by Wildtype Books, is suitable for children between three and eight years old. In an effort to advocate good vision care and habits amongst parents and children, these books will be available at primary schools and libraries across Singapore. “Amanda the Panda: Outdoor play keeps myopia away” can also be found at local book stores such Kinokuniya and Huggs Epigram.
The recently-opened Myopia Centre by SNEC has been developed with a dedicated focus on the prevention, control and treatment of myopia. Strategically located in the heartlands of Bedok, the Myopia Centre will provide a comprehensive clinical service for both children and adults. For children, the focus would be on prevention and control; while monitoring, early detection and management of complications are key for adults. Operated by a team of trained eye care professionals, the Myopia Centre leverages on the eye-health expertise from SNEC in providing well-rounded measures at the centre.
Partnership with International Experts to tackle myopia
Due to the complexity and scale of myopia, tackling this health challenge will continue to be a priority of SNEC. The upcoming International Myopia Summit 2019 organised by SNEC and SERI will be held from 19 to 20 August and connect well-established, leading ophthalmologists, professionals and research professors from local and overseas faculties. Themed ‘Controversies in Myopia’, the meeting provides a platform for candidates to discuss and debate over the concerns and topics surrounding the condition - including myopia prevention and public policy, myopia control, myopia myths and the industry and regulation of myopia treatments.
In the lead up to its 30th anniversary next year, SNEC will also be hosting various international events and meetings to commemorate this milestone. Notably, the 11th International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness General Assembly 2020 will bring together more than 2,000 international and local thought leaders – healthcare policymakers, key scientists and researchers 4 to discuss a variety of cross-cutting themes, including addressing the growing challenges of myopia.
Since 1990, SNEC has been committed to be at the forefront of advocating eye health in Singapore through clinical trials and research into the causes and treatments needed for various eye diseases. Especially so for the field of myopia, the organisation has established a proven record of conducted research as well as efforts taken to combat the condition. More recently, SNEC and its research arm, the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI), joined hands with Johnson & Johnson Vision (JJV) for the first-of-its-kind public-private partnership in Asia focused on myopia.
As a leading research institution in myopia research, SERI has contributed to the field in three major areas – developing the epidemiological picture of the disease, pushing for myopia to be recognized as a serious public health issue as well as leading the first trials in atropine for myopia treatment. SERI was also selected by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to host the Western Pacific Region Meeting on Myopia. Held on 13 and 14 November 2018, the meeting was attended by over 40 delegates and experts from key member organizations of IAPB and member countries of WHO. To enhance the myopia discourse, the meeting focused on using the existing evidence around myopia control strategies to support policy development through:
- Updating existing strategies and approaches to reduce the burden of myopia
- Identifying effective activities to address the burden of myopia in countries, and
- Fostering collaborations for implementation, in line with Towards Universal Eye Health: A regional action plan for the Western Pacific (2014-2019)
Please refer to the link here for the WHO meeting report (including a summary of 19 main themes that emerged from the discussion and a set of recommendations for the member states as well as NGOs and WHO).
SNEC and SERI are excited to see their research efforts being translated into treatments for patients and new changes in international policy. Moving forward, SNEC will continue to work closely with healthcare professionals and collaborate with relevant partners to synergise efforts in the fight against myopia.
For media enquiries, please contact:
Singapore National Eye Centre