Seven leading ophthalmologists and optometrists from Australia, Britain, Hong Kong, the Philippines and the United States will talk at the inaugural Hong Kong Optometric Conference, taking place today at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai. The topics under discussion will range from myopia and orthokeratology to paediatric optometry, primary eye care, the management of patients undergoing refractive surgery and the treatment of keratoconus. Hong Kong serves as the perfect host for a conference on optometrics as it has one of the highest rates of myopia in the world. Myopia is defined by ICAIR Medical Associates of Hong Kong as occurring 'when an eye is too long for the cornea's curvature. Light rays entering the eye do not come to a sharp focus on the retina at the back of the eye. Instead, they focus further forward, producing a blurred image'. According to the Centre for Myopia Research at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), there has been a huge increase in the incidence of myopia in Hong Kong in recent years. A study published by the centre a few years ago found that about 70 per cent of 17-year-olds in Hong Kong were short-sighted. China will soon have 18 times more myopia sufferers than the United States, which spends about US$4.8 billion a year on its treatment. Co-organised with the Hong Kong Optometric Association, PolyU and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC), the conference is being held in conjunction with the Hong Kong Optical Fair to give local and overseas eye care practitioners and industry representatives a chance to exchange views and keep abreast of the latest developments in the field. 'We launched a new section on optometric instruments, equipment, and machinery [at the fair] last year,' says Anne Chick, senior exhibitions manager, TDC. 'We thought it was the right time to have this conference because it would help this section to grow.' Dr Victor Woo, one of the two local experts to address the conference, will discuss the role of ophthalmologists and optometrists in the management of refractive surgery. Professor George Woo Chi-shing will be the other local speaker. He was appointed dean of the faculty of health and social sciences and chair professor of optometry at PolyU in 1997. Professor Woo, who believes that optometrists in Hong Kong should serve as role models for their counterparts in the mainland and elsewhere in the region, will review the role of optometrists in primary eye care in his talk. There will be two speakers from Britain. Dr Simon Barnard, whose main clinical interests lie in the fields of paediatrics, learning difficulties and contact lenses, will speak on recent developments in paediatric optometry. And Dr Marion Edwards, whose research interest is myopia, will speak on whether a cure really matters. Dr Antonio Joson, Jr, of the Philippines will speak on fitting keratoconus cases. Mick Stoyan of the United States will speak on multi-focal contact lenses. John Mountford of Australia will speak on the clinical efficacy of orthokeratology.