The world is experiencing a vision crisis. In total, over 200 million people around the world are visually impaired, and 7 million people develop blindness every single year. One-third of those who seek help and health care for their eyes are unable to obtain it. Developing countries are the most at risk, with 90 percent of individuals suffering from vision impairment living in underdeveloped nations. The organization Peek is seeking to change this, and the future of Peek could mean health care for everyone.
What is Peek?
Peek is proof that great things often come from small ideas. The organization began as a simple, developing research project in the International Centre for Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Now, Peek consists of two entities: The Peek Vision Foundation, an official charity in the United Kingdom, and Peek Vision Ltd, a manufacturing company that develops medical devices for people all over the world.
Peek began with smartphone apps and hardware that provided affordable and accessible eye examination kits that could be used in every home, school and community. This hardware, the Portable Eye Examination Kit (PEEK), was used in 50 schools in Kenya in 2015 to evaluate 20,000 children who otherwise would have been left in the dark concerning their eye health. Further, Peek’s individual products, Peek Acuity, the smartphone app that examines vision, and Peek Retina, a portable ophthalmoscope that captures detailed images of the retina, are currently being used in over 150 countries around the world.
The Future of Peek
Now, Peek is moving beyond portable eye examination kits and onto how technology can play a role in making sure health care is readily available for everyone, everywhere. Concerning Peek’s future journey, Daisy Barton, head of communications and PR at Peek, wrote, “Today, we’ve moved beyond developing and validating our basic technology to building software systems that capture the information from smartphone-based eye health screening and surveys. To bring better vision and health to everybody, we need to understand where people fall through the gaps when trying to access eye care and how eye care providers can ensure their systems improve.”
Their smartphone-based eye care kits laid the foundation and proved that there was a viable way to test vision anywhere in the world using only a smartphone. Now, Peek is building upon that foundation to ensure nobody gets left behind when it comes to vision health.
Tracking Universal Health Care
Universal health coverage seems like a tall order, but Peek is following the lead of organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and Global Goals for Sustainable Development to make it possible. For example, officials from the WHO along with the United Nations are working to develop specific indicators of health that enable different countries to mark their growth and advancements along their journeys toward universal health care. These indicators cover a variety of topics concerning different aspects of health. While the official list of indicators will not be announced until later in 2019, a preliminary list announced that there would be at least two indicators involving eye health.
Part of the struggle in making universal health care a reality is the impracticality of measuring every single aspect of a country’s health coverage; however, Peek is playing an important role in overcoming this challenge. Peek is using their smartphone-based software to provide countries and organizations with raw data that can be used to help develop certain health care indicators. This data allows health services to analyze and evaluate statistics pertinent to making universal health care a reality. Barton said this information includes “who is attending treatment, where they are based, and what the outcome is.”
Peek, along with the development of the rapid assessment of avoidable blindness eye health survey, is using and developing advanced technology and software to measure the aforementioned vision indicators as well as to develop treatments in a cost-effective, accurate and practical way. Their work will be fundamental in ensuring universal health care and improved vision worldwide.
With members of Peek all over the world, and offices in England, Pakistan, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Botswana, it is only a matter of time before Peek’s vision of eye care and universal health care is achieved. The future of Peek along with their groundbreaking work will ensure that those who so often fall between the cracks will no longer be left behind.
– Melissa Quist