What inspired you to develop Myopia Profile and how has the journey been so far?
Kate Gifford: Myopia Profile has its foundations in one, double sided piece of A4 paper. Many years ago, I had created a paper-based communication tool to help explain myopia correction and control in a simple and efficient manner, to address my own problem of running late in clinical practice when having these detailed discussions. Translating research into practice, I started speaking at conferences on the topic of myopia management over a decade ago, and several years ago offered to share the ‘Clinical Myopia Profile’ communication tool – that double sided piece of A4 paper – with colleagues.
Inundated with requests, Paul suggested that we build a website to share it. In 2016, we founded the closed Myopia Profile Facebook group and the MyKidsVision.org website with a myopia risk survey, for public awareness. In 2017 and 2018 we built more education on MyopiaProfile.com; in 2019 we launched the world’s first freely available online course on myopia management; and in 2020 we were able to focus full time on Myopia Profile and see it grow into the world’s largest and most popular multi-channel digital ecosystem for childhood myopia management. We now have over a quarter of a million engagements across our platforms each month. It’s been exciting to take Myopia Profile from our side project to main focus, establish our talented and dedicated team, receive the support and trust of numerous industry partners, and see our platforms grow in 2020, to now engage people from 178 countries around the world.
What continues to drive you to advocate for myopia management today?
It’s a globally important time… to keep building education and growing awareness amongst eye care practitioners and the public.
Paul Gifford: Our mission at Myopia Profile is to improve children’s vision care worldwide. Along with increasing myopia awareness, we are seeing more interventions being provided by the industry today, and there is also a growing research understanding of ways to alter myopia’s typical childhood trajectory and its long-term impact on a child’s vision and eye health. Since the global incidence and impact of myopia is also growing, we feel that there’s no better time than now to keep building education and growing awareness among eye care practitioners (ECPs) and the public. It’s a globally important time to do so.
Why did you decide to collaborate with Essilor and how will this partnership benefit eye care practitioners worldwide?
Essilor and Myopia Profile’s collaboration brings together the world’s largest manufacturer of ophthalmic spectacle lenses with the world’s largest educational platform on childhood myopia to make a big impact.
Kate Gifford: Working with Essilor brings together the world’s largest manufacturer of ophthalmic spectacle lenses with the world’s largest educational platform on childhood myopia, to make a big impact. With a long-lasting commitment in research on myopia and key partnerships leading to a long track record of myopia management solutions, Essilor intrinsically recognizes the value of education and public awareness as their mission, and we share this key value.
Research shows that we have various optical and pharmacological interventions to slow down myopia progression, while also recognizing the impact of the visual environment. Spectacle lenses are always going to be a key part of myopia management; as a first line treatment in myopia controlling designs, as a backup correction option for contact lens wearers, and often as our primary correction method in pharmacological treatment or the first option for younger children. Having Essilor recognize the imperative for education and public awareness through Myopia Profile indicates that myopia management must become a part of mainstream childhood eye care. Every myopic child will need glasses at some point in their lifetime. Essilor and Myopia Profile’s partnership recognizes that with every pair of glasses should come education and awareness of the risks of childhood myopia and benefits of myopia management.
What do you think are some key obstacles that eye care practitioners face today to adopt myopia management in their practices and what can be done to overcome this?
Paul Gifford: The key obstacles that we see through our work are education, access and communication skills. ECPs first need to ensure they are educated in the when, why and how of myopia management. Access can be a barrier where ECPs don’t feel they have the scope or setting of practice to uptake myopia management—for example, because those initial conversations can take time—or their practice setting may not permit particular interventions. The path from research to launch, to increased availability of new interventions for myopia control will always take time, but there’s an exciting volume of research which is being translated into spectacle, contact lens and pharmaceutical interventions now, and will continue into the future.
The key obstacles eye care professionals face today are education, access and communication skills.
While the options are growing, it’s important to note that every primary eye care practitioner has access to some form of optical intervention. These could include progressive addition spectacles for particular children; bifocal and prismatic bifocal spectacles; or the new generation of promising myopia controlling spectacle lenses with “H.A.L.T.” (Highly Aspherical Lenslet Target) technology - Essilor Stellest™ lenses. Contact lens options include myopia controlling and multifocal contact lenses and orthokeratology. All are more effective in controlling myopia than single vision correction. We all have to start somewhere. Finally, communication skills are required to combine ECP education with available interventions into best-practice recommendations suitable for the individual myopic child and their family. This can seem a huge mountain to climb for an ECP new to myopia management, but all worthwhile journeys start with first steps, and we provide guidance for those first steps and beyond through Myopia Profile.
How can education and awareness be helpful in tackling the myopia epidemic, and how has Myopia Profile contributed to this so far?
Paul Gifford: Myopia is the biggest vision issue affecting our children today and will become an increasing eye health problem for our adults of tomorrow. We have recognized that while ECPs need to be educated in the latest research, evidence-based clinical practice and industry innovations, this must also be met with educating parents on what best-practice childhood myopia management means for their children, so they can seek this care.
Educated ECPs and educated parents drive each other towards better outcomes for our young patients. Myopia Profile has contributed to this, and continues to do so, by educating and engaging ECPs with this important clinical topic, while also providing multiple information platforms to increase parental and public awareness. The primary way by which Myopia Profile combines these efforts to help ECPs and parents find those better outcomes are through our clinical communication resources – tools to bridge the gap between ECP and parent, to simplify this very complex and still emerging area of research into actionable clinical processes which support both ECPs and parents, as they tread this childhood-long path for each individual myope.
What makes Myopia Profile different from other similar platforms out there today?
Kate Gifford: Our three strategic pillars of providing comprehensive professional learning experiences, building innovative clinical resources to translate research into practice, and increasing public awareness, make Myopia Profile a unique resource in the eye care landscape.
Our authentic and trusted voice combining our experience as researchers, clinicians and educators, is unparalleled and of utmost importance to everything we do. We put the learning experience first and ensure valuable clinical relevance for eye care practitioners in all of our work. Our focus and impact is global – building accessible educational opportunities and resources that are useful to primary eye care practitioners in all settings and at all levels of competency and scope of practice.
Finally, we have built and continue to curate the world’s largest online professional community through our Myopia Profile Facebook group, which now includes more than 9,000 ECPs, students and industry members from almost every country of the world. Myopia Profile is the only platform which brings together ECP education, clinical resources and public awareness into a global community who are in a real-time, ongoing conversation about putting it all into practice.