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Senior Vice President, Customer Development Group, Essilor of America
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Matt Oerding
CEO & Co-Founder of Treehouse Eyes
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GMAC research explores awareness barriers to tackling childhood myopia

Online publication :
01/2021
Reading time :
5 min

A Global Myopia Awareness Coalition (GMAC) survey* of more than 4000 parents in the United States shows that parents ranked annual visits to the eye doctor as less important than visits to the dentist and also revealed certain misconceptions about comprehensive eye exams. Another May 2020 GMAC survey** of more than 2000 parents in the U.S. showed increased screen time for children since COVID-19 and parents’ desire to help their children balance screen time and near-work with outdoor activities. This article highlights existing trends and awareness barriers among parents in the U.S. and how GMAC is addressing them through health promotion and education.

Content

Children’s dental health prioritized over eye health by parents 

With the purpose of first building a strong fact base to develop compelling messages to resonate with parents, GMAC undertook a comprehensive qualitative and quantitative research effort with 4,004 parents in the United States in September 2019. Parents surveyed were 35-44 years old, with half of them being women. Around 35% of parents polled had myopia, 28% had astigmatism and 22% had hyperopia, while 20% of their children were myopic. 

Key findings and broad trends that emerged were:

Even though 70% of parents reported that eye doctor visits were important, only 27% of parents actually took their kids for an eye exam during that year.
  • Overall, parents ranked annual visits to the eye doctor as less important than visits to the dentist or pediatrician. 
  • Even though 70% of parents reported that eye doctor visits were important, only 27% of parents actually took their kids for an eye exam during that year. 
  • Parents perceived oral health to be as important as eye health, but in comparison, more than 80% of parents took their children for a dental visit in the last year.
     

The first key takeaway from this data was the existence of a substantial difference between the parents’ perception of eye health and their actions. The data retrieved through this survey also revealed some misconceptions around where to get their child’s comprehensive eye exam: 

  • While 85% of parents said that they were somewhat familiar with comprehensive eye exams, 88% of parents actually believed that comprehensive eye exams were not essential until children entered school. 
  • 48% of parents believed that a paediatrician could conduct comprehensive eye exams.
  • Parents reported waiting for a comprehensive eye exam until their children informed them that they can’t see the whiteboard in school (66%), or if they observed their children squinting more than normal (62%), or holding materials far away (52%).

 

The second key takeaway from this data was that almost half the parents believed that a paediatrician vision screening or a school vision screening constituted a comprehensive eye exam. Hence GMAC has started relaying through their messaging that school and paediatrician vision screenings are important, but they do not replace a comprehensive annual eye exam with an eye doctor, which is recommended before children begin school and annually, or as directed by their doctor. 

Almost half the parents believed that a paediatrician vision screening or a school vision screening constituted a comprehensive eye exam.

These insights helped GMAC develop and launch its first public awareness campaign ‘Vision Mission’ in December 2019 in the U.S. by partnering with ten social media parent influencers to talk about being on a #VisionMission with their children. They documented a day out with their children, taking them for a comprehensive eye exam in a fun and engaging way, and more importantly sharing that experience with their followers and educating them about the risk factors of myopia and the importance of visits to the eye doctor. The campaign saw strong engagement on the influencer platforms, and on average the campaign content shared saw three times higher engagement than any other content shared by the influencers previously. 

The outcomes from the survey also highlighted the importance of enlisting the help of other allied healthcare professionals to educate the public. As a result, GMAC has now created a health care advisory panel, with representatives from allied health care professionals and players, including ophthalmologists, paediatricians and school nurses.

 

Children’s screen time more than doubled since COVID-19

GMAC recently launched its second campaign called #gameovermyopia, which is a two-part effort, beginning with a comprehensive survey of 2007 parents, conducted in May 2020 in the U.S. Some of the key findings were:

  • 44% of parents said their children spent four or more hours on digital devices daily.
  • 67% of parents said their children accessed e-learning material for more than six hours a day.

The first key trend from this data was that since the COVID-19 outbreak, screen time increased considerably for both parents and children—but more than doubled particularly for children. Aside from this, survey data also showed: 

  • 78% of parents agree that increased screen time could have an impact on their children’s eye health.
  • 76% of parents were looking for ways to help reduce their child’s screen time.
  • 81% of parents were trying to find outdoor activities to do with their child.

 

The second important insight was that more than three quarters of parents felt extended screen time could affect their children’s eye health and were actively trying to balance screen time with outdoor activities. 

More than three quarters of parents felt extended screen time could affect their children’s eye health and were actively trying to balance screen time with outdoor activities.

The insights from this survey indicated that it was important to find a way to encourage children to spend more time outdoors. Given that most of these children were gaming, the best way to reach them was directly through online video game streams and to also encourage parents to simulate their children’s favorite digital video games, in real life. As a result, GMAC launched a campaign called #gameovermyopia with gaming influencers who transported online games outdoors with activities that allowed children to look out at infinity and shift their eyes away from an unnatural position, potentially caused by close reading distances for prolonged periods of time. Content was shared on the influencers’ channels, which collectively had more than 86 million followers at the time. 

The campaign has already seen millions of impressions through gaming influencers and social media parent influencers by conveying key messages to get children away from screens to outdoors, to convey what myopia is and encourage parents to take children for a comprehensive eye exam as early as possible. It is also important to convey to parents that children’s bedtime routines should include good visual hygiene of powering down all devices at least an hour before bedtime.

Through more such initiatives, GMAC aims to equip parents with knowledge to be able to ask eye care practitioners the right questions, so that together, they can make an educated decision on the best solution to manage myopia for their child, and ultimately hopes to make a positive impact on myopia awareness and education globally.

Key Takeaways

  • School and paediatrician vision screenings are important, but do not replace a comprehensive annual eye exam with an eye doctor, recommended before children begin school and annually, or as directed by their doctor.
     
  • Parents can help their children balance screen time and near-work with more outdoor activities.
     
  • Practitioners should advise parents that their children’s bedtime routines should ideally include good visual hygiene of powering down all digital devices at least an hour before bedtime.
     
  • GMAC aims to equip parents with knowledge to ask eye care practitioners the right questions, so that together, they can make an educated decision on what is the best solution to manage myopia for their child.

 

*  Global Myopia Awareness Coalition. New Survey Reveals Vision Is Deprioritized by Parents in Children’s Overall Health. December 2019.
** Global Myopia Awareness Coalition. Global Myopia Awareness Coalition Says "Game Over, Myopia" by Bringing its Message to Gamers. June 2020.

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Authors
dr. millicent_knight_head_shot.j
Senior Vice President, Customer Development Group, Essilor of America
,
Matt Oerding
CEO & Co-Founder of Treehouse Eyes
About us

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