IAPB is delighted that the Shanghai Eye Disease Prevention and Treatment Centre (SEDPTC), our strong partner in China, invited us to attend “Get Sunny for Sight”. Held last Sunday, it was the perfect introduction to a week of awareness raising. In line with the theme of June 6 – Correct Myopia Scientifically, Care for Children’s Eye Health – SEDPTC invited over 1000 children and their families to participate in a series of outdoor activities at the Gulf National Forest Park on the outskirts of Shanghai. The event was attended by a host of local dignitaries as well as representatives from IAPB members Brien Holden Vision Institute and Orbis. Guests included Associate Director Zhao Dandan from Shanghai Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning, Associate Director Ni Minjing from Shanghai Municipal Education Commission and Deputy District Head Hua Yuan from Fengxin Government.
Those of you unfamiliar with the increasing public health issue of myopia may be asking yourselves why is it so important for SEDPTC to promote outdoor activity?
Well, according to SEDPTC monitoring data, the rate of poor sight in Shanghai primary and secondary students in the 2016-2017 school year was 57.7%. To break it down further, that’s 47.2% of students in primary school, 75.8% in junior high school and 89.3% in senior high school. This reflects statistics across the region, which show among the economically developed cities in East Asia, myopic students account for 80% to 90% of high school graduates.
Professors Haidong Zhou and Jiangfeng Zhu, from SEDPTC, explain that myopia is due to genetic and environmental factors. Scientific evidence shows that too little outdoor activity and too much near work are the most important environmental factors that lead to myopia in children. Daily outdoor activities for 2 hours or more, enjoyed in natural lighting, can effectively reduce the risk of myopia. Professor Xu Xun, Vice President of Chinese Ophthalmological Society & Head of Myopia Intervention Project addressed the gathered crowd, telling parents and children that they should rest the eyes for 10 minutes after reading, after learning for 30-40 minutes, and limit the use of electronic products as much as possible.
All very good reasons why it was so important to have 1000 kids outside, enjoying the park as they rambled around the gardens to see who would be first to complete the treasure hunt (each clue included a fundus-fun fact and all who completed their puzzle received a medallion)
For those who were feeling less active, but still wanted to enjoy the outdoors, SEDPTC set-up a garden-gallery of artwork. These paintings, the best entries from a children’s art competition, highlight healthy activity as part of myopia control. Some have even been included in a mobile “classroom” – a converted shipping container replete with fundus images and graphics to educate children on healthy sight as well as the effects of various common eye diseases. This innovative unit – “Mobile Big Eye” – took centre-stage at the starting line for the treasure hunt – but from today heads off on a journey of its own around the schools of Shanghai.
The day would not have been complete without the attendance of “Big Eye”, the playful mascot for SEDPTC June 6 activities, who leads the children as they hunt through the forest for their clues. Big Eye is indicative of the fun that SEDPTC brings to June 6 – an understanding that with commitment and passion and fun they have the right tools to make an impact. Its working: in his speech, Associate Director Ni Minjing from Shanghai Municipal Education Commission stressed that eye health is a very important part of the comprehensive quality of the students. On this basis, the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission will strengthen communication with the relevant units of the health and family planning department and integrate scientific ideas and measures about healthy eye protection into school education.