Singapore is the smallest country in Southeast Asia, being dwarfed in size and population compared to neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia. In terms of defence, however, Singapore thinks big.
Almost 20% of the annual budget is spent on keeping the nation safe. In fact, Singapore boasts the biggest and most well-trained air force in Southeast Asia, with more than 13,000 people enlisted.
Singapore’s powerful military capabilities are renowned all over the world. However, the Singapore Air Force (SAF) is facing a serious threat – not from a foreign military attack, but from a home-grown source.
The Myopia Epidemic
The epidemic of myopia, or short-sightedness, is a growing problem which potentially places the future of their air force in peril.
Pilots need good vision to fly planes safely and spot enemy targets from a distance. However, more than 80% of SAF enlistees each year are short-sighted. The lack of enlistees with good visual performance spells trouble for maintaining a ready pool of pilots.
The issue has become so pronounced that the SAF has developed the Vision Performance Centre, which provides free laser surgery to correct short-sightedness of new enlistees.
However, with the increasing myopia epidemic, more and more surgeries have to be conducted each year. Those suffering from high myopia, a severe form of short-sightedness, still have a risk of developing blindness even after laser surgery.
Tackling the problem at its root
People are at greater risk of developing high myopia if they begin to develop myopia when they are of young age. In fact, research has shown that 55% of children who develop myopia before age 7 develop high myopia.
A major contributing factor to this problem is unhealthy use of technology. With the technological revolution, children are starting to use computers and smart devices from a younger age. Unhealthy device exposure directly increases the risk of developing myopia early in life and irreversible blindness later in life.
Ironically, focusing solely on individual concerns may be myopic as well. It may not be as thought about, but myopia has implications on a nationwide level as well. With the widespread myopia epidemic, fewer people will be eligible to work in the air force due to failing eyesight requirements. This is detrimental to sustaining armed forces of countries with a high myopia rate.
Securing our future, starting today
For countries like Singapore to be well-protected for future generations to come, it’s essential to protect our children’s eyesight. No one should have to give up on their dreams of becoming a pilot because of poor eyesight, and this can be done through fostering good eye care habits from young.
Monitoring children’s smart device usage is a good place to start. By having a parental control app that allows you to control your child’s screen time even when you are physically apart, you can take the first step to managing the onset of myopia in your child.
Changing children’s behaviour from a young age will ensure that we have fewer people with sight-threatening conditions, as well as a generation of sharp army pilots to continue protecting the skies.