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  • VM Staff

Myopia Coalition Holds Inaugural Event to Create Awareness of Childhood Epidemic

DENVER, Colo.—Thirty-three eyecare industry experts and leaders met here last week to discuss how to raise public awareness of the eye health risks associated with childhood myopia. The newly formed Myopia Awareness Coalition (MAC), represented manufacturers, retailers, insurers, equipment manufacturers, eye doctors, researchers, the press and a consumer advocate, all stakeholders in addressing this important and growing issue. MAC members came up with ideas to promote more public awareness directly, through industry, through government and non-government organizations. An exercise facilitated by Bart Foster of Sanitas Advisors focused on “What is inevitable in myopia in the next 5-7 years?” While there were nearly 100 ideas, the top 10 were: 1. Myopia rates, especially childhood myopia, will continue to rise and become a more mainstream health care issue that will get the attention of the media and others outside of the eyecare industry. 2. The FDA will approve devices and/or ophthalmic treatments to stop or slow the progression of myopia, as has already happened in many other countries. 3. Asian countries, where myopia rates are the highest, will lead in raising awareness of this issue and in coming up with solutions. 4. Myopia will be recognized and classified as a disease vs. a refractive error. 5. Research currently underway, such as the study of genetic markers, will give us a better understanding of the causes of myopia. 6. A “crisis moment” will happen where the legal risk of not treating myopia will force eye doctors to be more proactive in treating myopic children. 7. Companies currently outside of eyecare will recognize the opportunity and bring disruption to the product and/or service side of myopia treatment. 8. Screen time for children will become even more controversial, with competing forces pushing for more educational use of technology vs. concerns over addiction, myopia and the social/behavioral impact of screens on children. 9. More advanced products will be available for myopia treatment with longer-term safety and efficacy data. 10. Childhood eye exam and screening guidelines will be revised and lead to better and earlier vision testing for children to identify myopia.

Paul Levine, OD, FIAOMC, FAAO of the American Academy of Orthokeratology and Myopia Control.

MAC members universally agreed on the importance of partnering with existing organizations such as the World Health Organization, Prevent Blindness, the American Optometric Association, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and many others globally to coordinate efforts to educate the public on myopia and secure resources to further research into this critical area. Matt Oerding, CEO of Treehouse Eyes, shared a case study on the dental market and how the American Dental Association and industry partnered effectively to change attitudes of U.S. consumers about the importance of oral health and regular dental visits. The concept for the coalition was conceived, and the event was coordinated by, Treehouse Eyes. Gary Gerber, OD, chief myopia reduction officer and co-founder of Treehouse Eyes said, “With any initiative, be it in a doctor's practice, or any other business, ideas don’t come alive without being executed. The idea of increasing myopia awareness is too important, and the ideas generated by the coalition too good, to not get executed. Millions of kids need help and the execution of the MAC ideas is the first step.” Mike Hundert, chairman of The Vision Council, facilitated an ideation session developing ideas to raise awareness of myopia. These fell into three major categories: • Direct to consumer awareness building campaigns. Public relations efforts, school screenings, social media and influencer campaigns were all put forward as strong ideas. During the group discussion the coalition agreed on the need to develop simple and memorable messaging for any campaign that is aligned across various stakeholder groups. • Government lobbying efforts. Many ideas centered on more effective government engagement to drive funding for research and advocacy in the myopia arena. Given the scope of myopia and increased understanding of associated eye disease risks, the coalition agreed on the need for a coordinated approach to engage governments on this issue, preferably through existing organizations. • Education to eyecare professionals, to drive greater engagement and discussion with parents about the risks of myopia. Alignment between optometry and ophthalmology was identified as critical to influence other health care providers such as pediatricians, as well as increasing efficacy of lobbying efforts. While education of the profession has increased in recent years, more needs to be done including more focus at professional association meetings. Dr. Gerber led the last session focused on translating ideas to action. Several executable ideas rose to the top, including creating a “Myopia Awareness Week” in the U.S. with elements of public outreach and education, health care provider education and government engagement to deliver a focused first step effort at tackling this challenge. Marc Ferrara, CEO, Information Services, Jobson Medical Information, stated, “The MAC meeting was well-executed and energizing. Gary and Matt assembled an impressive group of industry leaders who engaged in a lively discussion about the challenges we face around myopia awareness with both the patient and practitioner communities. Attendees displayed a vibrant commitment to moving awareness of this issue forward with a variety of creative ideas.” Ron Walker of added, “This is a big job, and getting the stakeholders into collaboration mode is a great start.” Attending the Myopia Awareness Coalition inaugural meeting were, Juan Carlos Aragon, OD, and Rich Jeffries from CooperVision/Paragon; Jean Mark Leroy and Weiwen Chen from Essilor; Connie Vavricek from VSP; Ben Chudner, OD, and Carl Spear, OD, from Luxottica; Tony Sommer from Visioneering Technologies; Dr. Mike Ross from Euclid Systems; Dwight Akerman, OD, from Alcon; Lee Ball, OD, from Johnson & Johnson Vision Care; Michael Wolber and William Burnham, OD, from Oculus; Jim Kirchner, OD from Synergeyes; Trevor Kojima from Precision Technology Services; Megan Schneider from Welch Allyn; Paul Levine, OD, from American Academy of Orthokeratology and Myopia Control; Pamela Capaldi from the Brien Holden Vision Institute; Joe Wende, OD, from EyeMed; Randy Baldwin from CareCredit; Marc Ferrara from Jobson Medical Information; Neal Wolff from Nevakar; Jim Thomas from Pentavision; Ron Walker from All About Vision; Steve Jones from Shami; Mike Hundert from The Vision Council; Dr. Jennifer Jung from the University of Colorado Hospital; Jamie Hughes and Lance Anderson, OD, from PECAA; consumer advocate, Cheri Kiesecker; Bart Foster from Sanitas Consulting; Jennifer Choo, OD, PhD from Menicon; and Gary Gerber, OD, and Matt Oerding from Treehouse Eyes.

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