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LCQ15: Visual health of students

     Following is a question by the Hon Tang Ka-piu and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (May 11):


     In recent years, with the growing popularity of electronic products such as smart phones and tablets, students have been using those products for learning and entertainment since a very young age.  Some healthcare professionals have pointed out that prolonged screen time will make children more vulnerable to myopia or astigmatism, and will increase their risk of developing severe eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataract and macular degeneration.  It is learnt that the health assessments, provided for eligible secondary and primary students by the Student Health Service Centres under the Department of Health since 1995, include a vision screening test.  However, as the screening test is rather simple, it is ineffective in protecting the visual health of students.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the respective numbers and percentages of pre-school children, primary one students and primary school graduates suffering from (i) myopia, (ii) astigmatism, and (iii) both myopia and astigmatism in each of the past 10 years (set out in a table);

(2) of the respective average degrees of myopia and astigmatism among the primary students suffering from myopia and/or astigmatism in each of the past 10 years; among such students, the respective numbers and percentages of those with 600 degrees of myopia or above (high myopia) and those with 200 degrees of astigmatism or above (high astigmatism); the respective numbers of students diagnosed with various types of eye diseases induced by high myopia or high astigmatism in each of the past 10 years;

(3) whether it will consider enhancing the vision screening tests offered by Student Health Service Centres; if it will, of the details, and whether it will consider including an astigmatism test; of the measures taken by the authorities to raise students' awareness of visual health, and to provide support for those grassroots students who suffer from high myopia, high astigmatism or various types of eye diseases; and

(4) whether it will consider providing a comprehensive vision screening for eligible students in Hong Kong and launching a better eye care education programme to prevent the visual problems of students from worsening; if it will, of the details and timetable of the relevant work; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Maternal and Child Health Centres (MCHCs) under the the Family Health Service (FHS) of the Department of Health (DH) provides Pre-School Vision Screening for children aged four to five.  The screening aims to detect as early as possible any visual abnormality (such as amblyopia, squint, and significant refractive errors) of children so that they can be referred to ophthalmologists for further visual assessment and treatment with a view to protecting their vision and visual development.

     As for school-age children, the Student Health Service (SHS) of the DH provides visual acuity test for all primary school and secondary school students during their annual health checks.  The visual acuity test is a screening test which aims to detect as early as possible visual acuity problems of the students and whether the problems so detected have already been appropriately corrected (for example, wearing suitable glasses).  The test is conducted for the students with their own glasses on if they are already wearing glasses.  Those who fail the visual acuity test will be referred to optometrists of the DH's Special Assessment Centres (SACs) by healthcare staff at Student Health Service Centres (SHSCs) for further visual assessment.  Parents of the student may also choose to consult private optometrists for assessment and follow-up.  Healthcare staff of the SHSCs will also take the opportunity to screen other visual problems (such as amblyopia) and make appropriate referrals accordingly.  My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows.

(1) and (2) The Pre-school Vision Screening conducted by the MCHCs is only an initial screening test.  The DH does not maintain statistics on the confirmed cases of visual problems such as myopia, astigmatism etc. for pre-school children.

     In the past 10 school years (i.e. from school year 2005/06 to school year 2014/15), the respective numbers of primary one students, primary six students and all primary school students that underwent visual acuity test at SHSCs, as well as the numbers and percentages of the students who failed the test are shown in Annex 1.  Among them, the percentages of primary school students who were wearing glasses (including glasses that correct visual problems such as myopia, astigmatism, myopia and astigmatism etc.) during the visual acuity test are set out in Annex 2.  As the visual acuity test conducted by the SHSCs is merely a screening test to identify students with the need to refer for further visual assessment and follow-up, the DH does not have the information about the number of students participating in the visual acuity test who have been found to have myopia and astigmatism.

     The numbers of primary school students attended the SACs for further visual assessment as referred by SHSCs, as well as the relevant numbers and percentages of students found to have myopia and astigmatism (including high myopia at or more than -6.00D and high astigmatism at or more than -2.00D) are shown in Annex 3.  The DH does not have the information about eye diseases in students which are induced by high myopia or high astigmatism.

(3) Currently, the visual acuity test provided by the SHSCs can effectively screen refractive error visual problems including myopia and astigmatism in students, and appropriate referrals (including the SACs under the DH) for further assessment and management are provided when necessary.  Besides, health advice and education to promote eye health, for example, healthy reading habits including proper use of electronic screen products, are also provided to individual students by healthcare professionals.  They will also provide relevant information including the importance of regular eye check-up to those with high myopia and astigmatism.

(4) The cause of refractive error visual problems like myopia and astigmatism is mainly hereditary, while environmental factors like improper reading habits or use of electronic screen products may also worsen the visual problems of myopia and astigmatism.

     The DH has been promoting vision and eye health through various channels.  The FHS and the SHS have provided relevant health information on their webpages respectively.F  In view of the possible adverse health effects, including those on eye health, brought by use of electronic screen products to children and students, the DH released the Report of Advisory Group on Health Effects of Use of Internet and Electronic Screen Products in 2014, and issued a series of recommendations and health tips, which have been promulgated through various means to promote the messages on vision and eye health.  The DH will continue to provide vision screening at the MCHCs and the SHSCs, individual health advice and appropriate referrals, coupled with relevant health promotion activities, to protect the vision and eye health of students.  The Government will closely monitor the visual health needs of students and take actions as appropriate.

Ends/Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Issued at HKT 18:09


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