Tackling childhood blindness and visual impairment in low-income countries presents considerable challenges. Infrastructure and human resources are seriously lacking, and systems for accurately testing children for eye conditions and improving follow-up rates are often non-existent or inadequate.
If there was a way to improve the way that children’s eyesight is screened and treated across low-income countries, could the fight against eliminating avoidable blindness for good be a step closer?
A new grant to Operation Eyesight from Standard Chartered Bank’s Seeing is Believing program could pave the way for an effective approach to screening millions of children with vision problems. We have funded a pilot project in Kenya that could revolutionize the way children’s eyes are tested, using the recently launched Portable Eye Examination Kit (Peek) smartphone app.
Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine worked with ophthalmologist Hillary Rono at Kitale District Hospital in Kenya to run the school-based project. Once finished, we will be able to evaluate if the Peek app can be used effectively by teachers to test children’s vision and improve detection for those with sight problems.
In Kenya, few schools have a school screening program available. The team hopes the device will be as accurate in the hands of teachers as by specialists using traditional hospital-based tests.
The connectivity of Peek enables data to be instantly loaded up onto a dedicated cloud system, and the results immediately accessed by hospital staff, saving a significant administrative burden for teachers and allowing for referrals to be made more swiftly. It also allows teachers and doctors to check on those who have not come for treatment. Hospitals will be able to let teachers know by text message whether a child needs to come in.
The possibilities for this innovative app are huge! As Dr Rono says, “We are extremely excited by this project and grateful to Seeing is Believing for this innovation grant. Ever since the Peek team launched their impressive app, we saw that it could really make a difference to the problem of screening at schools. It will help increase the detection rates of children with poor vision, hopefully helping them realise their educational potential.”
Operation Eyesight would like to thank Seeing is Believing, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) for their funding and support with this innovative project!