Increased screentime amid the pandemic only accelerated childhood myopia challenges
(WASHINGTON) – A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Congresswoman Angie Craig (D-MN) and Congressman John Joyce, M.D. (R-PA) and signed by 26 other Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, today sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requesting an agency update on efforts to encourage early detection and prevention of childhood myopia. The COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified this progressive health condition as more children experienced increased time indoors and engaging in near work, oftentimes learning through a tablet or laptop.
The Members of Congress write in the letter, “Eye and vision problems in children are a significant global public health concern. Myopia, one of the most common eye health conditions, is a chronic progressive disease that poses the biggest threat to global eye health this century. Children aged 12 and younger who become myopic have a high risk of becoming highly myopic with a commensurate increased risk of developing visually threatening complications later in life.”
According to a recently published study by researchers at Emory University and the University of Michigan, more time indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to be associated with an increase in vision problems. Specifically, the study observed upwards of a threefold increase in childhood myopia in 2020 compared to the previous five years.
“The Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety applauds Congresswoman Angie Craig and Congressman John Joyce, M.D., along with their House colleagues, for seeking answers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the efforts the agency is deploying to combat the rise in childhood myopia,” said Dr. David Cockrell, O.D., Chairman of the Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety. “We are hopeful the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will outline robust, proactive measures to tackle this public health issue, which, if left untreated, will have long-term impacts on our children’s development, opportunity, and overall wellbeing.”
There is no existing cure for myopia. Early diagnosis and preventative treatment are crucial to mitigate adverse health outcomes in children. Minimizing near-work engagement through devices such as a tablet or laptop, while increasing time outdoors is critical in reducing the risk of childhood myopia.
“As we continue to face the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, a growing number of Minnesotan physicians and parents are sounding the alarm on how children’s vision is being negatively impacted by the onset of childhood myopia,” said U.S. Representative Angie Craig (D-MN). “Together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I am hopeful we can raise awareness among parents, physicians and other stakeholders to increase early detection of myopia, ensuring our children are able to excel socially, in the classroom and through their developmental years.”
Eye care professionals recommend annual eye examinations for all patients, including children. If a child has not had a vision screening since the onset of the pandemic, optometrists recommend parents schedule a comprehensive eye examination.
“As a physician, I know firsthand how, if left untreated, medical conditions like myopia, often called nearsightedness, if not diagnosed, can affect a child’s development. That’s why I am pleased to work alongside Congresswoman Angie Craig and my House colleagues to ensure that physicians are well-equipped, and parents are well-informed on how to detect and treat childhood myopia,” said U.S. Representative John Joyce, M.D. (R-PA).
For more information, please visit www.PatientSafetyToday.com.