By Analou De Vera
Lack of exposure to outdoor activities is one of the causes of visual impairment, particularly myopia, among Filipinos, health experts said on Tuesday.
“Four pupils in a class of 40 have vision problem,” Dr. Leo Cubillan, director of Philippine Eye Research Institute, bared in a press conference yesterday at a hotel in Ermita, Manila.
“Right now, if you look at our children among kindergarten, around eight to 10 percent of them would need eye glasses. In 40 pupils, four of them have error of refraction (EOR),” said Cubillan.
World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Advisor Dr. Andreas Mueller said that eye conditions such as myopia “is an increasing problem around the world, not only in Asia.”
To note, myopia is a condition wherein a person has a difficulty to see objects when they are far away.
“Lifestyle and behavioral choices are definitely related to vision loss and to some eye diseases that can cause blindness,” said Mueller.
“Myopia is not only a genetic problem by a 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 myopia,” he added.
Cubillan emphasized that myopia can be controlled or prevented through exposure to natural light.
“Initial recommendation is that children from aged two up to 12 years old– [must] have a more outdoor exposure. We are talking about 15 hours per week– so that is around two to three hours per day of outdoor exposure,” he said.
The Department of Education (DepEd), meanwhile, encouraged teachers to have more outdoor activities with their students.
“They can bring the children outside– look at the gardens— look at the natural environment as an area for learning,” said Ella Cecillia Naliponguit, director of the school health division of DepEd.
“We also want to make sure that school[s] have the students sit and enjoy their lunch or snacks outdoors. In between classes,” she added.
“We are recommending to teachers now to look at alternative creative methods in teaching so they can have children go around, walk around, and enjoy outdoor places,” furthered Naliponguit