By Juan Carlos Aragón, OD
You and I live in a world where myopia is front of mind every day, seemingly the most discussed topic in optometry. We’re familiar with the challenges it creates for children who are left uncorrected. We can quote the statistics of its growing prevalence and severity around the world. We can name several increased risks that it poses to vision later in life. And we know that efforts are underway around the world to manage its progression.
Yes, we devour new issues of Review of Myopia Management, pack meeting rooms at conferences to hear the latest research, and speak with peers to understand what they’re doing about myopia in practice.
Yet our world is not the real world. Most people, even parents of myopic kids, lack the basic knowledge that myopia exists, don’t understand its near-term challenges and long-term effects, and lack any inkling that options are being explored to tackle this global healthcare crisis.
It’s a recipe for a never-ending epidemic, where eye care professionals not only have to overcome the condition itself but also have to work twice as hard to educate parents, some of who may be skeptical of an issue that has garnered scant mainstream attention.
Enter the Global Myopia Awareness Coalition (GMAC), a diverse group of eye care companies that have come together over the past year to change that dynamic. Founded with a mission to “promote public awareness of childhood myopia as a treatable disease through direct to consumer channels and awareness with governments, NGOs, and other health care associations,” GMAC does not advocate for specific clinical approaches. Instead, it is designed to stimulate public interest and prompt parental conversations with ECPs.
That’s why CooperVision made a substantial commitment as one of GMAC’s founding members, and why I’m proud to serve on the coalition’s Board of Directors.
CooperVision’s interest in the science of myopia management dates back more than a decade to when we encountered growing research that indicated there could be opportunities to move beyond myopia correction, concurrently improving vision and stemming progression. While we’ve made phenomenal progress on that front with an innovative approach now available in Europe, Asia, and Canada, we also recognize that reaching parents is incredibly important. That includes developing outreach initiatives that enhance and support what ECPs are telling parents in the exam lane.
Now, working hand-in-hand with more than a dozen other corporations, GMAC is about to embark on consumer education in the United States, building on the coalition’s inaugural year and beginning the execution phase. One of the most important foundational components—market research about the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of parents of myopic children—is complete. That will be released in the near future and serve to underpin a data-backed promotional campaign.
I can’t emphasize enough how unique this approach is. GMAC has encouraged organizations who historically competed head-to-head to come together to tackle the substantial challenges that myopia represents. They’ve responded with dollars, with shared insights, with their time and with true resolve to shrink the awareness gap. What’s more, that participation has come from all the segments of the industry, including instrumentation, pharmaceuticals, spectacles, and contact lenses.
It’s fair to say that all GMAC members have reached one conclusion: no company can do this alone. By working together, we’ll help pave the way for ECPs to have discussions with families that will deepen and extend their patient relationships.
And ultimately, our combined commitment will play a part in improving children’s vision today, with eye health benefits that should extend decades from now. Being part of a movement that has the potential to change millions of lives is incredibly motivating and inspiring, and I hope you’ll join in the public awareness efforts as we make even more inroads next year.
Juan Carlos Aragón, OD, serves on the Board of the Global Myopia Awareness Coalition and is President, CooperVision Specialty EyeCare.