A new coalition of eye care companies has enlisted Golin to raise awareness for childhood myopia, or near-sightedness.

The Global Myopia Awareness Coalition was formed in January by 12 eye care companies, ranging from large pharma brands such as Alcon to medical device companies such as Essilor to eye care startups.

The coalition’s goal is to raise awareness for childhood myopia and its little-known health effects. The group began working with Golin in June after an RFP process that began in March, said Matt Oerding, CEO of Treehouse Eyes and GMAC board chairman.

Golin’s Chicago headquarters is leading account work, with support from its Washington, DC, team and research and analytics unit, GolINTEL. Oerding said the coalition chose Golin because of the agency’s research and insights capabilities and the team had a “ton of passion about myopia.”

“A number of ophthalmic companies were talking about the really serious issue of childhood myopia, how much it was growing and the lack of public awareness in many countries,” Oerding said. “We want to get more facts out there [about myopia] to not just parents, but to pediatricians and other medical professionals. Our mission is to educate the public, allied healthcare professionals and potentially governments about this issue.”

GMAC and Golin are in the early stages of research and message development, Oerding said, and they expect to have a campaign up and running in the U.S. this year. He said he expects the campaign to be heavy on PR and social media. 

GMAC hopes to expand the awareness campaign globally, particularly to Asia, where the rate of childhood myopia is the highest, Oerding said.

GMAC didn’t share financial details about the account, but Oerding said the 12 companies have pledged $500,000 to the coalition this year, “the bulk” of which will go to the awareness campaign and Golin. The budget for future years will be determined by the cost of the effort this year, he added.

The coalition is focused on childhood myopia because, if left untreated from a young age, it can cause other eye health issues. 

“People think that myopia is something that you simply correct with glasses or contact lenses,” Oerding said. “There is a lack of understanding that as your vision gets worse, because your myopia gets worse, it increases eye health problems significantly. It’s a shock to a lot of parents that this is something they need to take seriously and that pediatricians or eye doctors often don’t talk about. The second major challenge is getting them to take action. It’s not a wait and see situation; they need to take their child in for a comprehensive eye exam.”