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Championing Myopia Control: WCO’s Dr. Sandra Block addresses today’s growing need to elevate the standard of care in myopia management

The alarming rise of pediatric myopia is a global and multifaceted problem — and to help control the impending epidemic, optometrists need to know (and follow) the most current and effective management and treatment strategies. Dr. Sandra Block, World Council of Optometry presidentelect, addressed the latest in mitigation, management, and treatment of pediatric myopia at a recent WCO Virtual Event, Myopia Management: Advancing the Standard of Care.

Before retiring, Dr. Sandra Block dedicated her career to pediatric optometry. Today, as the president-elect of the World Council of Optometry (WCO), she’s bringing her invaluable expertise to a global stage to help elevate the standard of care in myopia management.

According to Dr. Block, we need to recognize that myopia is not only a refractive state — but rather, a disease entity — that can cause vision loss through a number of different pathologies associated with moderate and high myopia. This includes posterior segment conditions like tilted disc, tessellated fundus, posterior staphyloma, thin choroid, macular degeneration, peripheral retinal degeneration, and vitreoretinal interface disease.

“Since we are now aware of the association of moderate and high myopia with these relatively common pathologies, it becomes more important for optometrists to look at myopia as a disease entity and consider myopia management to reduce the risk of developing these vision-threatening pathologies,” she said.

Keeping up with the latest evidence-based strategies

In addition, the continued increase of myopia prevalence in younger children further contributes to the urgent need for eye care practitioners to get on the same page when it comes to management strategies.

“The profession is learning that the epidemic (almost pandemic) of myopia is continuing to grow,” said Dr. Block. “And it’s clear that there are many researchers providing evidence on how to address myopia management — and it’s imperative
for eye care providers to stay on top of current research and how it impacts practice patterns.”

One way for optometrists around the world to stay up-to-date with the everevolving research is to participate in webinars, like the recent one held by WCO. During these informative events, optometrists can glean clinical pearls that can be integrated into daily practice — all backed by experts and their personal experience.

“The WCO has realized that we, as global leaders for the optometric profession, need to communicate this research and rethink how we regard myopia,” explained Dr. Block. And it’s not just the optometric societies that are answering the call to halt myopia progression — the industry is also stepping up in areas of research and development, as well as in supporting education.

For example, the WCO, along with CooperVision, created their “Standard of Care Guidelines for Myopia Management” in 2021 to serve as an important resource for optometrists. This includes information on new tools developed for myopia mitigation, measurement, and management, supported by welldesigned studies that demonstrate successful methods to slow down the progression of the disease.

Embracing change through education

According to Dr. Block, although eye care providers are slow to integrate change in their practices, it is happening — and the WCO is ready to support these efforts through education.

“From my perspective, change will occur faster as schools and colleges of optometry teach myopia management within the core curriculum,” said Dr. Block. “In addition, the number of webinars and articles that focus on the changing preferred
practice guidelines, along with the education of the public from groups such as the Global Myopia Awareness Coalition (GMAC), will drive change at the level of patient care. Educational programs will need to continue to be offered to help optometrists maintain the highest level of knowledge and skills to best treat their patients,” she continued.

Championing Myopia Control: WCO's Dr. Sandra Block addresses today's growing need to elevate the standard of care in myopia management

Dr. Block hopes that viewers of the WCO Virtual Event were convinced to at least update their perspective of myopia — and that’s away from the dated idea that myopia is a refractive error that can be corrected with simple optical lenses … to the reality that myopia is a disease entity that needs early detection, treatment, and follow-up.

“It’s our responsibility to educate patients and parents about lifestyle changes that can help lessen the impact, along with new and emerging tools to improve outcomes,” she said, adding that when it comes to pediatric eye care, parent involvement and awareness are imperative.

For example, parents should know what risk factors can be modified and which cannot, like genetics. “If a parent has myopia, that immediately increases the risk and that cannot be changed,” said Dr. Block. However, lifestyle changes can be made to help lower this risk, such as spending more time (at least 90 minutes per day) outdoors and less time on devices or doing other close work.

Eye exams also play a crucial role: Starting at age three and throughout school age, children should undergo multiple comprehensive eye exams. “We know that the eyes are still developing, and vision can change up to the age of 20,” she added.

“We need to ensure that our patients are offered the most effective and current treatments that could help maintain a lifetime of good vision,” concluded Dr. Block. “Optometry is core to the diagnosis and treatment of myopia and I envision that the profession will step up to the call to action.”

For more information about myopia or to register for an upcoming webinar, visit

Editor’s Note: This article was published in COOKIE magazine Issue 12.

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Dr. Sandra S. Block

, OD, MEd, MPH, FAAO, FCOVD, is a Professor Emeritus at Illinois College of Optometry, Global Clinical Advisor and consultant to the Special Olympics Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes program, and cochair of the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health. Dr. Block received her OD degree in 1981 and Pediatric Residency in 1982 at the Illinois College of Optometry, where she is a faculty member. She completed her Master of Education at the
National Louis University and her Master of Public Health from the University of Illinois, School of Public Health. She is a diplomate in Public Health and Environmental Vision at the American Academy of Optometry and a Distinguished Fellow of the National Academy of Practice. She sits on the Prevent Blindness Board of Trustees and recently joined the VISION 2020 Board of Directors. Dr. Block has been a consultant to the Special Olympics Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes program since 1995 and has been instrumental in developing the vision program globally. Her interests lie in primary care for children and persons with disabilities, as well as diagnosis and treatment of visually related learning problems as well as public health issues facing the equity and quality of eye care delivery. She has authored numerous publications and conducted presentations worldwide. In November 2021, she was elected as the WCO President-Elect. Prior to this, Dr. Block served on WCO’s Board of Directors as the Public Health Committee Chair.

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