A local research program benefiting children is getting a significant cash injection, courtesy of a local hockey star.
Former London Knight Brandon Prust announced on behalf of the Brandon Prust Foundation a $100,000 donation Monday morning in support of the “Ivey Special Eye Examination Services (iSee) Vision Screening Research Program at St. Joseph’s Health Care London.
The pilot project is examining photoscreening as a useful and rapid tool in identifying children with eye conditions that can cause amblyopia, also known as lazy eye.
Pediatric Eye Specialist with the Ivey Eye Institute, Dr. Inas Makar, said the hope is that the province will introduce a formal screening program for all children between 2 and 3 years of age.
“This is already happening in other provinces, we don’t have a universal eye screening program,” she said. “Other countries, like Sweden for example, have reduced the incidents of lazy eye from 2 to 3 per cent to 0.2 per cent… Our aim and goal is for public health to take on this initiative and introduce vision screening. It took years and years to introduce hearing test screening, so now every single baby who is born does not leave the hospital unless they have a hearing test.”
Children aged 18 months to 4 years in London and nearby surrounding communities can participate in this pilot research program.
“This is an enormous gift from the Brandon Prust Foundation that’s going to help us conclude a research study that we’ve been working on for quite some time that’s looking at the issue of lazy eye in children,” said Michelle Campbell, President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation. “Many children have the existing condition of lazy eye, but it doesn’t get caught through screening and if children are not caught by the age of 5, they then have a fixed condition that cannot be treated.”
Photoscreening only requires a child to sit still for a few seconds, and involves no drops or pain. It’s as simple as getting your picture taken, and the screening camera gives immediate results.
“Lazy eye we know leads to issues of self consciousness, it can often lead to issues of bullying in school children, employment opportunities might be lessened, so there’s a lot of reasons why we need to catch lazy eye early, and it’s easily correctable but we just need to catch it early and so this injection of money from the Brandon Prust Foundation is going to help screen up to 5,000 kids that we need in the pilot study, which we hope is going to give us the data to change health care policy,” said Campbell.
Prust was thrilled to provide the funding needed to help complete the pilot program.
“It’s awesome, we’re very excited,” said Prust. “With the Brandon Prust Foundation, we’re always looking for really cool initiatives and programs to help support children, and this is one that was brought to our attention not too long ago, and we wanted to jump on board right away, so it’s more of a pro-active program and we can help prevent children from going through pain.”
The cheque presentation was made at the Stoney Creek Community Centre, YMCA, and Library, where free screenings were being offered to children on Monday.
There will be free screening at community and daycare centres, as well as other public spaces throughout the London region, over the coming months.
Parents are encouraged to visit the St. Joseph’s Health Care website for a list of locations.