More than half the young children and teenagers in China are nearsighted, according to a survey by top government agencies, which called for intensified efforts to prevent and control the condition.
“Nearsightedness is a serious problem for children and teenagers in China, and we have an arduous task to control and prevent it,” Zhang Yong, deputy chief for control and prevention at the National Health Commission, said at a news conference on April 29.
The survey, which was conducted last year, found that eight of 10 senior middle school students were nearsighted, compared with 71.6 percent in junior middle school, 36 percent in primary school and 14 percent of 6-year-olds in kindergarten. Overall, 53.6 percent were nearsighted.
Organized by the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance and the commission, the survey covered 1.1 million students in 1,033 kindergartens and 3,810 primary and middle schools.
Zhang said several factors are associated with the high rate of nearsightedness in China’s children and teenagers, including lack of outdoor physical activity, lack of adequate sleep due to heavy extracurricular work and excessive use of electronics products.
Ma Jun, deputy head of the Beijing Ophthalmology Institute, said the survey was the largest in recent years.
“We generally have an awareness of nearsightedness among young children and teen students of all age groups in China, which has provided a basis for taking targeted measures for control and prevention,” he said.
Hu Ailian, a doctor from the institute specializing in eye diseases, said nearsightedness is incurable, so prevention is key.
“Nearsightedness has become more common among younger students, and has even spread to kindergartens,” she said. “High-degree myopia may cause serious consequences such as blindness. Parents should improve their awareness on the importance of protecting their children from nearsightedness.”
Zhang, from the National Health Commission, said the commission will cooperate with education authorities to pressure local governments to carry out measures for control and prevention of nearsightedness among students, and improve monitoring of nearsightedness, he said.
It will also focus on measures such as increasing outdoor physical activity for students and guiding them to use electronic products properly, Zhang said.
“Efforts are needed from all parties, including the government, schools, medical institutions and especially students and their parents,” he said.