THE FOUNDING OF THE INTERNATIONAL MYOPIA PREVENTION ASSOCIATION
Since the organizations in the eye care field were telling the public nothing about the true cause of myopia, the idea of forming an organization devoted solely to myopia began to seem more and more necessary.
The final decision about forming a myopia prevention organization was made at the 1974 Annual Congress of the American Optometric Association in Washington, D. C. An important part of such meetings takes place on a large floor where booths can be rented to exhibit optical goods, hand out literature, etc. I rented a booth to show the Myopter and give out literature on the latest research on myopia and ways of preventing it. To my amazement, the booth was almost totally ignored by the optometrists, although an adjoining booth, where the tinting of eyeglasses was being demonstrated, was always crowded. It was obvious that the people to whom we must go with our vision problems were more interested in tinting lenses than in saving sight. They were ignoring everything that had to do with myopia prevention.
It was quite clear that pleading with the members of the eye care professions to change their ways was not going to succeed. They would have to be forced to change, and this would occur only after the public was well informed about the real causes and solutions to the problem of myopia.
In 1974, I therefore formed a nonprofit, tax-exempt Pennsylvania corporation, the International Myopia Prevention Association. When the formation of IMPA was announced in various optometric journals (it was ignored by the medical journals), I began to receive letters from optometrists around the country expressing their interest in the new organization. The response was greater than I had anticipated and indicated clearly that there did exist an unfilled need for such an organization. Typical comments from these letters may be of interest:
Many of the letters conveyed a tone of isolation and frustration. These doctors who were trying to treat myopia properly were in need of moral support and a sense of solidarity with other practitioners of a similar philosophy. This could only be accomplished by a national organization.
IMPA also produced what is probably the first educational film ever available on myopia prevention. Now on video cassette, "Myopia - A Preventable Tragedy" is narrated and runs approximately 10 minutes. The material covered is similar to that which is contained in the IMPA booklet, The Prevention of Acquired Myopia. Considerable use is made of animation, resulting in entertaining yet educational viewing. Some of the items touched on are:
The film can be used by schools, civic groups, lending libraries, etc. It is also suitable for showing to patients in doctors' offices.
IMPA has also published The Myopia Myth and established a solid presence on the Internet with www.myopia.org.
Is it not ironic that all of this badly needed activity is being done not by the eye care professionals, but by an outsider? It is sad indeed that if you want to save your child's vision, you must take the initiative and dig out the facts yourself, because neither the government, the schools, nor the medical profession is going to give you the slightest bit of help. If anything, they will just stand in your way and give you false information.
At one time, IMPA communicated with seventy-five foundations, including some of the largest in the country and several that have supported vision research in the past. Not one was willing to provide even a small grant for either public education or research. Foundations prefer to support safe, run-of-the-mill causes, not controversial ones.