An American organization is hosting campaigns worldwide, including in Canada, to educate parents on early indicators of eye disease in children.
"So, Know the Glow is an organization that started about 10 years ago to help prevent childhood blindness through early detection," says Christina Gill, Board Member and Global Family Coordinator for Know the Glow. "Currently we're based in the United States, and we recently just added a new member who is over in the Balkans in Croatia. So, we're starting to move a little bit more internationally and have new ambassadors."
Gill also states that Know the Glow has a sizeable campaign in Canada to educate the public about knowing what the glow means in a child's eye. She says that through this campaign, there will be more ambassadors recruited to enhance and enlarge their Canadian outreach.
"A glow is almost like a cat's eye or like a white reflection that is in a child's eye. About 80 per cent of cases are actually diagnosed and found by parents. So, if you take a picture with your camera and the picture comes back with two red dots in the eyes, most people go okay I need to do the red-eye corrector. But what we have found through Know the Glow and also through talking to other doctors is that if a child has a white reflection in one eye it is actually an indication that there could possibly be some type of disease or an issue with the eye."
Gill recalls the time she found out her son had the glow. While looking at pictures of him she noticed a white reflection in one of his eyes, "it almost looked like it had a cloudy film over his eye." She said she kept an eye on him after that and kept seeing the white reflection, that is when she brought her son to the doctor's office.
When looking for signs in younger children, such as toddlers and as young as six-month-old infants, she says if a parent covers one of their eyes and the child tries to push the hand away, it might be because their good eye, the one they can see out of is covered and they are trying to see.
Many parents may question why their child does not tell them that they have trouble seeing, Gill says that they may not know that their vision is not normal.
"One of the best things that I've read recently was that children are not little adults, they are children and so they can't relate to us when they can't see or that something is different, especially if they've had this their whole life. We try to encourage families to get their children's eyes checked out at least three times by the age of five. Doctors, surprisingly, they can tell if a child needs glasses at six-months-old."
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Know the Glow hopes that with its campaigns, even less developed countries can have the opportunity to receive eye care and know the signs. The organization's plan is to focus on educating and providing resources to a new country every month.
"We saw the need that there are a lot of third world countries out there that don't necessarily have the right amount of support that they need from having ophthalmologists, optometrists and even just the normal care that they would need. So, we started really focusing on actually going into those countries and in Mumbai, India, they were having a rally one day for children with retinoblastoma and they were actually using some of the advertisements that we had put out for print. So, we know that the message is definitely making its way and it's helping educate so many parents and family members."
Gill says that Know the Glow launched in Africa, Australia, parts of Europe and South America during the summer and is bringing its attention back to North America as of right now.