People sitting in auditorium looking at screen.
University News | 2/21/2024

Slowing Nearsightedness: MCPHS Joins Program to Pilot Pediatric Myopia Treatment

By Maaha Rafique

The announcement of the pilot program at the New England College of Optometry, one of the partner schools working with CooperVision along with MCPHS.

People sitting in auditorium looking at screen.
The announcement of the pilot program at the New England College of Optometry, one of the partner schools working with CooperVision along with MCPHS.

The School of Optometry is participating in a program to expand the accessibility of vision correction for children in underserved communities.

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) is collaborating with a manufacturer of contact lenses and two other institutions on a pilot program to improve access and care for underserved children with myopia.

Individuals affected by myopia, more commonly known as nearsightedness, are unable to see faraway objects. The condition can be managed with eyeglasses or corrective lenses. In children ages 8 to 12 who present with signs of myopia, specialized lenses can slow the condition’s progress by gradually changing the shape of the cornea.

In December, CooperVision, a global lens manufacturer, partnered with MCPHS, New England College of Optometry (NECO), and the Illinois College of Optometry to offer myopia treatment to a pilot group of children in the Boston and Chicago areas.

“As someone gets older, nearsightedness can increase risk factors for retinal detachment, glaucoma, and other conditions like that. So the goal of fitting younger children in these myopia control lenses is to slow the progression of nearsightedness so that they don't become as nearsighted as they might otherwise become,” said Greg Waldorf, OD, MPH, FAAO, Associate Dean for Clinical Programs at the MCPHS School of Optometry in Worcester.

Waldorf, who is leading the MCPHS portion of the pilot program, learned of the potential for the University to get involved after a colleague at NECO invited him to join the project.

"They thought it would be great to include us because they're in Eastern Massachusetts, and we have the ability to target Central and Western Mass. This way, we can really try to hit the state as a whole and provide these lenses to kids that might not otherwise have the opportunity or the financial ability to get them,” Waldorf said.

MCPHS faculty and students will assist in distributing the contact lenses for no cost at the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center in Framingham and the MCPHS Eye and Vision Center in Worcester. Although the project is still in the planning stages, the program will continue throughout the year and more schools will be included over time.

Fitting youngsters with contact lenses is a shift from conventional treatment of myopia, which is usually corrected with eyeglasses Waldorf said. However, Waldorf, a pediatric specialist himself, said contacts can improve vision long-term in children with myopia, who can begin showing signs of the condition when they are as young as 8 or 9.

“We're at an advantage here, since myself and our pediatric specialists have done residencies in pediatrics, and we enjoy working with kids,” Waldorf said.

Highlighting the program benefits for MCPHS, Waldorf said optometry students will have the chance to learn more about new myopia treatments in youngsters, enhance their range of experience, and even impact the future of the practice.

“If we can train our students that preventative treatment for myopia is just a standard part of primary care, the next generation of optometrists will be much more willing to do it and will see how simple it actually is,” Waldorf said.