FILIPINOS’ lack of exposure to outdoor activities coupled with high usage of gadgets, such as cellphones and laptops, are found to be the main causes of visual impairment.
This was revealed by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Philippine Eye Research Institute (PERI) saying lifestyle and behavioral choices of young Filipinos are to blame for having four in every 40 students having vision problems.
“Lifestyle and behavioral choices are definitely related to vision loss and to some eye diseases that can cause blindness,” said WHO Regional Advisor Dr Andreas Mueller in a press briefing on the launch of the World Report on Vision 2019.
“Myopia is not only a genetic problem but lifestyle choices and behavior such as long indoor work, not going outside, studying very hard without being exposed to sunlight. These are the main contributors to the increase in myopia,” said
This was seconded by PERI Director Dr. Leo Cubillan, who zeroed in on the cases of myopia increasing among the youth.
“Right now, if you look at our children among kindergarten, around 8 to 10 percent of them would need eye glasses. In 40 pupils, four of them have error of refraction (EOR),” said Cubillan.
“And myopia can be controlled, can be prevented… with exposure to natural… outdoor exposure to light,” he added.
Data from PERI shows that cataract is the main cause of visual impairment in the country with 1.06 percent or 1.11 million Filipinos, with about 333,639 or 0.35 percent needing surgery.
Uncorrected EOR ranks second with 0.38 percent or 398,688 Filipinos; followed by glaucoma with 0.27 percent or 283,287 Filipinos; and maculopathy with 0.20 percent or 209,836 Filipinos.
Because of this, Cubillan said they are strongly recommending that children be provided more opportunities to stay outdoors.
“Children from aged 2 up to 12 years old must have more outdoor exposure. We are talking about 15 hours per week. So that is around 2 to 3 hours per day of outdoor exposure,” said Cubillan.
In response, the Department of Education (DepEd) said it is looking to create more outdoor activities for students in a bid to help avoid visual problems.
According to DepEd – Bureau of Learner Support Services Dr Ella Naliponguit, among the outdoor activities they are looking at are having recess and lunch breaks, and even lectures held outside classrooms.
“We are recommending to teachers now to look at alternative, creative methods in teaching so they can have children go around, bring their children outside, look at the gardens,” she said.
“We also want to make sure that school have the students sit and enjoy their lunch or snacks outdoor, in between classes,” Naliponguit added.