If current trends continue, 5 billion people—half the world’s population—will have myopia by 2050. And while you may not think of near-sightedness as a serious public-health threat, the growing scope of the problem is estimated to cost US$328 billion already, and 1 billion of those affected by 2050 will have a serious form that can lead to blindness.

In hopes of staving off the crisis, IPG Mediabrands APAC today announced a regional pro bono collaboration with Plano, a company that’s taking a science- and tech-based approach to fighting myopia. IPG Mediabrands will help Plano expand in the region and worldwide with strategic partnerships, media, expertise, and awareness-driving CSR initiatives.

The company’s timing in announcing the partnership seems impeccable, given news Friday that China plans to limit the number of online video games out of concern over myopia levels.

But where China’s solution sounds draconian, Plano takes a more educational and interventional approach. Launched last year through a Singapore government-supported incubator and with support from Singapore’s NHIC (National Health Innovation Centre), Plano has developed an eponymous app that aims to manage excessive and inappropriate device usage by children. The app is available in Singapore, India, and as of today, Malaysia.

“Plano works in the background of phones and tablets to empower behaviour change as well as to provide real-life intervention to ensure devices are held correctly, at the right distance, using the right posture,” Dr. Mo Dirani, Plano’s founder and MD, told Campaign Asia-Pacific. “And then we also, through embedded algorithms, recommend referral for optometry care.”

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Plano, a myopia screening tool and parental management application has recently partnered with the Health Promotion Board (HPB) to reduce the onset and progression of childhood myopia.

Besides the annual vision screening in schools under HPB, parents are now to be encouraged to use plano app to cultivate good eye care habits as well and this partnership serves to expand the reach and impact of HPB’s health promotion programmes. Before this, plano was also developed under the supervision of the Singapore Eye Research Institute-Singapore National Eye Centre’s (SERI-SENC) Ophthalmic Technologies Incubator Programme and is supported by the National Health Innovation Centre (NHIC).

Features of plano include monitoring distance from device to eyes, prompts to adjust the user’s posture and reward-based incentives to redeem monetary discounts to encourage better device management. Artificial intelligence is also used to ensure children adhere to regular eye checks, and the app itself provides eye check recommendations and tips.

With the HPB partnership, plano will have a greater reach to school children as well as to raise awareness efforts to better manage myopia.

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With the increasing uptake and accessibility of smart devices, myopia is becoming a significant reason for myopia. And with the era of smartphones here to stay, it is likely that myopia rates and other associated health problems will increase accordingly.

Managing director of plano, Dr. Mo Dirani thus decided upon scientific ways that can be used to combat this health issue but was still skeptical about partnerships with an external consultant to help appeal to consumers.

However, AntzWorkz approach using AntzGatzTM complimented the work at plano as it was designed to be parallel to scientific and technical developments. Using this approach, solutions were identified i.e. setting limits or monitoring the child’s device use. Cutting-edge technology and behavioural science principles were also incorporated into features to build a healthy parent-child relationship.

Despite soft-launching plano with minimal marketing efforts, word about plano soon spread and this is further evidenced by 30,000 downloads in less than three months. At the same time, more than 50 corporate partners also signed up as vendors for the in-app plano shop.

In an interview, Dr. Mo Dirani summed up that in hindsight, insights were an investment that yielded significant returns on investments.

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