There are 39 million people who are blind in the world, the majority of which were caused by conditions that are preventable. Many of these people live in remote areas with little or no access to services and treatment. So Andrew Bastawrous, an eye surgeon and inventor, has stepped in to address this issue in Kenya, where there is a large population of blind people.
He invented a way to use an ordinary smartphone to diagnose and treat blindness easily and relatively inexpensively. Instead of bringing in high tech equipment that’s expensive and fragile, he developed a Portable Eye Exam Kit (PEEK). PEEK makes it possible to test anyone in any language of any age. And it’s portable, meaning that instead of building centralized health centers that require people to come to them, it can go right to the patient where they live.
It also doesn’t need a large and highly trained workforce to run it: just a single person on a bike with a smartphone and minimal training. A solar powered rucksack keeps the phone powered up, allowing the user to get to extremely difficult to reach and out of the way places.
Bastawrous also developed 3-D printed and low cost hardware that clips onto the phone and is used to get a decent quality picture of the retina. That picture can then be transmitted to a centrally located health care provider who can diagnose and provide treatment options on the spot.
In a country where more people have access to a mobile phone than to clean running water, this seems like a remarkably workable solution to treating blindness. And at a cost of just $500, it’s very affordable.
Finding ways to provide health care easily and inexpensively in remote areas will also pay off for the rest of the world. To see more about this innovative solution visit TED talk or watch the video below. It’s not very long, and really interesting.