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SPECS 2018: Breaking Barriers in Primary Eye Care

The Singapore Primary Eye Care Symposium (SPECS) 2018, held on 18 and 19 July at One Farrer Hotel, Singapore, saw about 200 practicing optometrists, opticians, and ophthalmologists attend the second edition of the annual symposium.

SPECS 2018, themed “Breaking Barriers in Primary Eye Care”, aimed to raise the standard of primary eye care in Singapore by upgrading professional knowledge and competence.

The symposium explored the latest scientific advances in primary eye care and also discussed ways to overcome some of the current limitations that today’s primary eye care professionals face.

A distinguished panel of 24 speakers from Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore shared their insights on the latest advances in the industry. The overseas speakers included Associate Professor Scott Read from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Professor Datuk Dr Rokiah Haji Omar from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (National University of Malaysia), and Dr. Jason Lim Hock Ming from Fremantle Hospital, Perth. The Singapore speakers included Professor Seang Mei Saw from Singapore Eye Research Institute, Professor Tock Han Lim from the National Healthcare Group Eye Institute, and Dr. Kah Guan Au Eong, Dr. Ajeet Madhav Wagle, and Dr. Joy Chan from International Eye Cataract Retina Centre.

Although Singapore has a high literacy rate and advanced healthcare services, optometrists and opticians face many challenges managing the eye care needs of the community. A large proportion of optical outlets provide only basic refraction services while the awareness of the optometrist’s role in the community is still low.

“The evolving eye care landscape in Singapore prompted us to organise SPECS to update and upgrade the knowledge and skills of primary eye care professionals,” said Leanne Hui Xin Lee, organising chairman for SPECS 2018 and an optometrist with International Eye Cataract Retina Centre.

“We hope SPECS will help primary eye care professionals keep abreast of the latest industry developments so they can provide the highest level of care to their patients in the community,” added Ms. Lee.

Myopia was a major topic discussed at the symposium. QUT’s Associate Professor Read spoke in depth on the pathological changes of the eye associated with myopia. He shared his research on the choroidal and retinal changes in the myopic eye, noting the significant thinning of both choroid and retina in eyes with more severe myopia.

Associate Professor Read also touched on environmental factors of myopia. He showed how increased outdoor light exposure and outdoor activities have an impact on myopia progression by comparing school children in Australia and Singapore, where the former receive a higher exposure to outdoor light during school hours compared to the latter. He concluded that the higher light exposure is associated with a lower prevalence of myopia in Australia school children compared to Singapore children.

In a similar vein, Professor Seang Mei Saw, Head of Myopia Unit, Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI) and Professor of Epidemiology at Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, warned of a “myopic tsunami” in Singapore. In her research comparing school children in Singapore and Australia, she noted that children in Singapore tend to have shorter outdoor time during curriculum period than children in Australia, who have about three hours of daily outdoor activities. Professor Saw suggested that government agencies help to promote outdoor activities such as by organising guided nature walks and offering subsidies for outdoor sports venues. She also highlighted the importance of educating parents and educators in encouraging more outdoor activities for children and also in strategising programmes for myopia prevention.

Other topics discussed at the symposium included low vision and glaucoma, which was covered by Professor Rokiah and Dr. Jason Lim respectively.

SPECS will be held annually and the next symposium, SPECS 2019, will be held from 23 to 24 July 2019.