Sports for sight initiative encouraging children in Shanghai to spend more time outdoors

One million children in Shanghai myopia study

Shanghai, China, 30 November 2016: With 65% of the Chinese population predicted to be myopic by 20501 the Shanghai Government are responding with a major program targeting children in the megacity. A survey of vision and refractive error screening of all children aged 4 to 14 years in Shanghai is one of the latest initiatives in China to meet what is regarded as a major public health challenge for the country.

The study, conducted by the Shanghai Eye Disease Prevention and Treatment Centre (SEDPTC), the leading primary eye care centre in China, and funded by the Shanghai Government, captured nearly one million kids (910,245), a whopping 75% of Shanghai’s children (4-14 years).

The rapidly increasing prevalence of myopia in urban areas of China prompted the Shanghai government to fund this initiative in 2011-2013 to understand the prevalence of vision impairment and refractive errors, especially myopia. The next step for SEDPTC, led by Prof Xu Xun, will be to investigate the impact of increased time outdoors on myopia development as it seeks to build on evidence of its protective effect on the onset or progression of myopia. The study will equip around 6,000 children with light measuring devices to validate time spent outdoors.

Dr Xiangu He, Myopia Project leader from SEDPTC and also with Shanghai Eye Hospital, says the aim of this latest research is to develop measures that will prevent children reaching high levels of myopia which places them at an increased risk of potentially blinding conditions. A recent study in Shanghai found high myopia to be the leading cause of new blindness in the city. 

Armed with a background in epidemiology and community health, Dr He is passionate about finding interventions and approaches to control the burden of myopia that can be implemented in communities.  “If the results of this new study are satisfactory we will promote the intervention in all schools of Shanghai,” Dr He said.

She said that in 2014, the Shanghai Government initiated an annual school screening program to detect myopia and other refractive errors in all children in Shanghai.

Dr He and her team are now working with Associate Professor Padmaja Sankaridurg and the myopia team at Brien Holden Vision Institute in Australia to analyse data from the one million children study as well as developing protocols for myopia intervention studies, including the upcoming outdoor intervention study.

Brien Holden Vision Institute this year signed a three-year agreement with SEDPTC for collaboration on these research projects.

1.    Holden BA, Fricke TR, Wilson DA, Jong M, Naidoo KS, Sankaridurg P, Wong TY, Naduvilath TJ, Resnikoff S, Global Prevalence of Myopia and High Myopia and Temporal Trends from 2000 through 2050, Ophthalmology, May 2016, Volume 123, Issue 5, Pages 1036–1042

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