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New smartwatch could prevent myopia in kids



    Dec 03, 2015

    New smartwatch could prevent myopia in kids

    A NEW smartwatch may help to prevent myopia in children.

    FitSight displays the amount of time users spend in the sun each day - which is believed to reduce the incidence of myopia, or shortsightedness.

    Targeted at children aged six to 12, it contains a light meter that tracks light intensity of children's surroundings, which is then translated into hours and minutes.

    At the start of last month, head of the myopia research group at the Singapore Eye Research Institute, Saw Seang Mei, embarked on a two-month study to test the first prototype with 100 primary school-aged children.

    Half of the group wears it as they go about their daily activities and all participants will answer questions on behavioural change during the trial.

    She hopes the device will encourage children to spend at least three hours each day outdoors. Those who achieve this will get a gold badge on the smartwatch's accompanying phone app.

    Consistently hitting this target will earn them a platinum badge and Professor Saw explained that such incentives will be developed further.

    The prevalence of myopia in Singapore is among the highest in the world.

    About 80 per cent of 18-year-olds here are sufferers.

    According to Prof Saw, about 10 per cent of children aged between six and 72 months are short-sighted.

    "If a primary school child becomes myopic, the chance of them developing high myopia later on is high," she added.

    High myopia refers to shortsightedness beyond 600 degrees. It raises the risk of other eye conditions such as retinal detachment or macular degeneration.

    Spending time outdoors and being exposed to sunlight is believed to reduce the rate of myopia because it encourages the body to produce the biochemical dopamine.

    This helps to prevent the eyeball from becoming elongated, which causes the condition.

    Results from a study by the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, published in September, show that children who spent an additional 40 minutes outdoors every school day for three years had a 23 per cent reduction in the incidence of myopia.

    The study tracked more than 1,900 six-year-olds from 12 schools between 2010 and 2013.