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Vision problems can impact a child’s success in school and everyday life — making early detection essential.

MEPEDS, the largest pediatric eye study ever undertaken, is improving the understanding of the extent and causes of eye disease among children between 6 months and 6 years of age.

By including younger children, researchers built the foundation to better identify eye diseases and their causes at the formative stages.

  • MEPEDS began in Inglewood, Calif., in 2003, and collected data in several other California communities, including Riverside, Glendale and Alhambra.
  • The research focused on children from four racial/ethnic groups: Asian, non-Hispanic white, African American and Hispanic.
  • From 2003 through 2011, MEPEDS provided free eye exams to more than 9,000 Los Angeles-area children ages 6 months through 6 years.
Key study findings
  • The incidence of childhood myopia (nearsightedness) among Americans has more than doubled over the last 50 years.
  • The incidence of childhood myopia in the U.S. is greatest in African American children, followed by Asian American children, Hispanic/Latino and non-Hispanic white children.
  • Future research may include re-examining the MEPEDS cohort to evaluate how widespread use of "screens" and other environmental/behavioral factors may be affecting childhood myopia and other eye diseases over time.

In addition, using prevalence data from MEPEDS and another population-based study, the MEPEDS research team recently estimated that visual impairment in preschool children will increase 26 percent through year 2060, affecting almost 220,000 children.

MEPEDS analysis shows that between 2015 and 2060:

  • multiracial American children will have the highest proportional increase (137 percent) in visual impairment cases;
  • Hispanic children will remain the largest demographic group in terms of the absolute numbers of cases (44 percent of the total), and
  • white American children will have the largest proportional decrease (21 percent).

The information gathered in MEPEDS will provide a foundation for new programs to optimize preschool vision screening and prevent childhood eye problems.

The research is a bellwether that visual impairments in young children may be prevented or treated with low-cost solutions if intervention occurs at an early age.