Drones and phones: how mobile tech is fighting global diseases
The Rift Valley is remote, located 90km north of Nairobi and vision – or lack of it – wasn’t talked about, with a knock-on effect on education and learning.
While injuries to the eye and allergies play a role, it’s uncorrected refractive errors, such as far and near sight, and astigmatism, that are the most common cause of vision impairment worldwide.
Refractive errors are also the second most common cause of blindness, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report. These conditions can be prevented early with glasses, but the issue is knowing who needs them.
Now Cosmas, 28, is part of a huge eye health screening operation in his home country, known as Peek, where ordinary people – school leavers, teachers, health workers — can test people’s sight and identify if further investigation is needed – with a swipe of a smartphone.
“Phones are having a big impact,” he says, smiling. “It gives me a lot of satisfaction that we can screen a lot of people for problems, who didn’t even know they had problems, and refer them to hospital to see a specialist and get attended to.”
Cosmas adds the programme is now screening in schools. “I’m so happy that children who would have lost vision from not being aware can be treated,” he said.
The operation used mobile phones to monitor a community’s health, known as mHealth – the use of mobile and wireless technologies to support the achievement of health objectives, according to the WHO.