Using the mobile to improve eye health in African villages | The weekly country
In 2011, British ophthalmologist Andrew Bastawrous left his NHS job to volunteer in Kenya, trying to improve the eye health of people with few resources. While carrying out tests on his patients, he realized the difficulties in carrying out diagnoses and treatments in the most rural areas, where there are no nearby health centers. “In low-income countries there are hundreds, even millions of people who lose their sight from causes that could be prevented,” he explains. Indeed, the United Nations estimates the number of people worldwide with vision problems at around 285 million, but many of them cannot access adequate eye care.
In his work in Kenya, Bastawrous noticed that most of the villages he visited did not have electricity, but they did have mobile phone networks. Thus he had the idea of replacing ophthalmological examination equipment with a device based on a smartphone. Together with his collaborators, he began to develop a portable kit called the Portable Eye Examination Kit (Peek, which also means “take a look”).
This system allows people not specialized in health care to perform vision tests, sending the results through the network to an ophthalmologist anywhere in the world for diagnosis. This system earned him one of the laureates of the Rolex Awards for Initiative in 2016.
To test Peek, Bastawrous organized a trial in which 25 schoolteachers were trained to use it, managing to test more than 20,000 students in nine days. Now the apps de Peek is certified as a medical tool and is available in more than 190 countries, and has helped improve eye health in countries such as Kenya, Botswana, India, Pakistan and Ethiopia.
Part of Bastawrous’s mission also involves working with healthcare organizations to develop The Vision Catalyst Fund, an organization that works to raise funding for eye health development around the world.
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