NEW DELHI: Lifestyle changes is a factor for incidence of myopia among school children and about four per cent of them suffered from refractive problems, Health Minister J P Nadda said today.
Observing that myopia was treatable, the Health and Family Welfare Minister informed the Lok Sabha that various steps, including training school teachers to identify common eye ailments, are being taken to treat the disease, which is caused by genetic as well as lifestyle factors.
These days, time spent by children outdoors has decreased and they are more into using laptops and video games, he said during Question Hour.
Over the past three years, screening of 8.72 crore school children done under the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB) found that around 31 lakh or 3.9 per cent of them had "refractive errors", including myopia.
"It (myopia) is treatable and we are seeing to it that facilities are developed in this regard," Nadda said, adding that studies conducted among school children in Delhi have shown an increase in the prevalence of myopia by 5.7 per cent.
He cited a recent research article in the American Academy of Ophthalmology Journal, which has predicted that there would be 4,758 million people with myopia (49.8 per cent of the world population) and 938 million people with high myopia (9.8 per cent of the world population) by 2050.
Nadda said the article was based on extrapolation of published data from many countries, including those with high prevalence of myopia like Singapore, Korea, Taiwan and China.
"These countries have a high prevalence of myopia due to environmental factors particularly lifestyle changes, such as decreased time spent outdoors and increased activities including seeing objects at a close distance like using laptops, computers and video games and longer reading hours," he said.
Nadda said the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) has been asked to examine the publication.
He said studies conducted among school going children in Delhi have shown an increase in the prevalence of myopia of 5.7 per cent over a period of 15 years.
"This is expected to be lower in rural areas. These studies have shown that similar lifestyle factors are responsible for this increase," the Minister noted.
To address the problem of myopia, Nadda said there are various initiatives such as training of school teachers to identify refractive errors and common eye ailments among school children.
Besides, paediatric ophthalmology and low vision units are being set up at medical colleges an regional institutes of ophthalmology.
Children are screened for vision impairment under Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karykram (RBSK). "This child health screening and early intervention services cover 30 common health conditions for early detection, free treatment and management, including vision impairment, which also includes myopia," Nadda said.