Sixty students at the University of Botswana received spectacles on Thursday 9 November as part of a pioneering new vision screening programme, led by the University of Botswana (UB) eHealth Research Unit under the Department of Computer Science and Botswana-UPenn Partnership (BUP).
First year students from across the Faculty of Science received eye tests on the 6-7 September, 2017 at the Faculty of Science offices within UB. The tests were conducted using smartphone technology developed by Peek Vision.
Peek Botswana is currently working with the University of Botswana Computer Science eHealth Research Unit and the Botswana-UPenn Partnership to bring smartphone-based vision screening to school children in Botswana, working with the Botswana Ministry of Health and Wellness and Ministry of Basic Education. The spectacles were supplied to University of Botswana students as part of a trial of the Peek programme, which will help to develop the technology and methods it uses.
The screening uses an app, Peek Acuity, which allows anybody with a smartphone to conduct an accurate eye test almost anywhere – in a school, college, or even at home. This means that students with poor vision can be easily identified and followed up with more extensive measurement at an eye health facility, followed by prescription of glasses to allow them to see clearly.
Ryan Littman-Quinn, Director of Mobile Health Informatics for the Botswana-UPenn Partnership and Botswana lead for Peek Vision said, “Research has shown that being able to see well is absolutely vital to students – in addition to affecting their ability to study, it affects their wider health and wellbeing. The University of Botswana and Botswana-UPenn Partnership have been working with Peek Vision since 2014 to bring vision screening to a wide range of people, so it’s great to see students from the University also benefitting from this programme.”
Cynthia, 23, who received glasses as part of the programme, said, “As somebody who has worked on the technical development of Peek, It’s been a great experience to take part in screening myself. Wearing glasses will definitely improve my ability to study, and I hope we can now bring this programme to even more children and young people in Botswana.”
The programme was supported by Eye Light Optometrists, an optometry practice based in Tlokweng, who provided eye wear at subsidized rates and clinical support for the evaluation of over 100 students during the study.
Peek Botswana is currently focusing its efforts on providing screening to every school child in Botswana. The programme has screened nearly 13,000 school-age children in Botswana since July 2016, resulting in nearly a thousand children receiving spectacles, medication or hospital treatment. By rolling out screening nationally, Botswana has an opportunity to be the first country in the world to eliminate avoidable visual impairment in an entire generation of school children by 2020.
The national Peek Botswana programme is supported by:
● Addenbrooke’s Abroad (Cambridge Global Health Partnerships) – a UK-based charitable programme which manages health partnerships between Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) and hospitals, governments and health organisations in other countries.
● Botswana Optometrists Association – the leading professional organisation for Optometrists in Botswana.
● Botswana-UPenn Partnership – a partnership of the Government of Botswana, the University of Botswana and the University of Pennsylvania devoted to building capacity in sustainable and high quality healthcare.
● The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust – a charitable foundation with a mission to leave a lasting legacy, owned by the whole Commonwealth, in honour of Her Majesty The Queen.
● Seeing is Believing (Standard Chartered Bank Botswana) – Standard Chartered Bank’s global community investment programme to tackle avoidable blindness.