Australian and Chinese researchers collaborating to address global myopia ‘epidemic’

Professor Xu Xun, Director of SEDPTC with Yvette Waddell, CEO of Brien Holden Vision Institute

Sydney, Australia, 10 December 2018: Myopia (or short-sightedness) is an ‘epidemic’ in many countries of the world, especially in East Asia where nearly 80% of high school leavers (16-18 years old) have the condition. In China, the prevalence of myopia in children is at an all-time high, and with some as young as 4 years-of-age becoming myopic the President, Xi Jinping, recently called for a national response.

A five-year scheme to reduce the incidence of myopia in Chinese children, involving eight ministries, has been initiated, but Australian researchers have been working with Chinese counterparts for several years to investigate the rapid increase in prevalence of myopia and develop treatments to prevent the sight-threatening complications associated with high levels of the condition.

In Shanghai, home to 24 million people and with one of the highest rates of myopia in the world, the leading primary eye care centre in China, Shanghai Eye Disease Prevention and Treatment Center (SEDPTC) at the Department of Ophthalmology, Shanghai General Hospital, has undertaken a series of program to help address this. It conducted a mammoth program screening the vision of 1 million schoolchildren and, more recently, initiated a large-scale clinical trial involving 6000 children to determine if increased outdoor time can help control the onset of myopia.

Researchers at the Brien Holden Vision Institute, based at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, which has an extensive history in myopia research and education and public health programs in China, have been collaborating with SEDPTC since 2015 on these studies.

“Myopia is a progressive condition and when the onset is at a young age an individual spends more years in the progressive phase and may reach high levels of myopia,” says Prof Padmaja Sankaridurg, Head of the Global Myopia Centre at Brien Holden Vision Institute.

“This predisposes the eye to developing serious and sight-threatening complications and with 1 billion people projected to have high myopia by the year 2050 there is an urgent need to develop effective interventions to slow the progression or prevent the onset of myopia in children,” she added.

With SEDPTC due to establish a national eye disease clinical research centre devoted to myopia research and management, the two organisations recently committed to extending their partnership for a further three years.

Staff from Shanghai Eye Disease Prevention and Treatment Centre, University
of New South Wales and Brien Holden Vision Institute

Prof Xu Xun, Director of SEDPTC said, “We started working with Brien Holden Vision Institute in the field of myopia in 2015; it marks the beginning of a great journey we share in addressing the issue of high prevalence of myopia in China, we have made great progress and this shows we have chosen the right partner in tackling this national health problem.”

“Myopia has received the national government’s attention this year and our work together will contribute to the areas of myopia prevention and control on a continuous momentum; and among other regions of high prevalence,” he added. “Our cooperation is deepening and we expect to achieve more exciting research results. We sincerely thank Brien Holden Vision Institute for their great professionalism, enthusiasm and extremely important support. I believe that our cooperation prospects will be bright.”

Yvette Waddell, CEO of Brien Holden Vision Institute, said, “We are fortunate to work together to understand and implement programs to tackle myopia at the grass root level.”

“The teams are highly complementary – whilst we are able to provide strategic advice, insights and direction, our counterparts in Shanghai have great expertise and are capable of addressing the needs of large segments of the population. A win-win situation that will benefit the children of the world,” she added.

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