Most of the world’s 285 million visually impaired people live in low-income countries, often in areas where there is little access to diagnosis or treatment. British ophthalmologist Andrew Bastawrous is radically changing eye care in sub-Saharan Africa with a portable examination system based on smartphones.
Ophthalmologist Andrew Bastawrous left his job with the National Health Service in the United Kingdom and moved to Kenya in 2011. While testing the sight of more than 5,000 people in remote areas, he realized a cheap method was needed in a country where vision problems were rife, eye-care specialists scarce and access to diagnostic services limited.
A huge imbalance exists between those who need eye care and those who have it available to them.
Most villages he visited had no electricity and often no roads, but they did have mobile phone coverage. This prompted the idea to replace high-tech testing equipment with mobile devices. Bastawrous and his team subsequently developed the smartphone-based Portable Eye Examination Kit (Peek), enabling non-healthcare workers to perform vision tests. In a trial, 25 schoolteachers were trained to use Peek and more than 20,000 students screened in nine days.
Peek may soon become a national programme in Kenya, and the system is being used also in Botswana, India and Tanzania. His Rolex Award will enable Bastawrous to scale up his project and help establish a centre of excellence and training for Peek in Kitale, Kenya.
Visually impaired people in the world.