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In the Pacific islands, including the CNMI, there is a low prevalence of myopia or nearsightedness among school-age children, World Health Organisation Western Pacific Regional Director Dr Takeshi Kasai said.
He noted that among school-age children, “myopia is the most common type of uncorrected refractive error.”
He believes that the number of children and adolescents with refractive error, particularly myopia, will increase substantially in the coming decades. “The increase is likely to be more marked in populations undergoing rapid economic transitions, like in East Asia, but not so much in the Pacific islands,” he added.
Dr Kasai said the increase in the prevalence of myopia is believed to be caused by genetic and other factors such as spending less time outdoors, and “intensive near vision activity,” which refers to “any activity requiring near vision” such as those that involve intense close visual work with electronic devices including tablets, smart phones, computers, and other close visual activity like reading books.
“There is a lack of evidence that extended near work on devices is any worse than reading books,” Dr Kasai said, adding “there is no evidence at present to discourage schools in the Pacific islands to shift from books to electronic devices.”
However, he encouraged school-age children to spend time outdoors which, he pointed out, is beneficial to health in general.
Dr Kasai was on Saipan recently to meet with CNMI health officials and to kick off the CNMI’s Emergency Medical Technician team training facilitated by the WHO.
SOURCE: MARIANAS VARIETY/PACNEWS
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