Click here to view the entire CEHC newsletter #2 or read it below.
Welcome to the latest Commonwealth Eye Health Consortium newsletter! As we pass the three-year mark in the lifetime of the Consortium, we reflect upon some of the positive activities which have occurred in the last few months. In this newsletter we cover the Royal visit to Malawi, the DR-NET Workshop, the launch of Peek Retina, and a case study from our featured Consortium Scholar, Dr. Selassie Tagoh. We also include open opportunities to study with the Consortium.
Royal visit to Malawi
Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex marked Commonwealth Week by visiting a hospital and school in Malawi to see activities relating to the Commonwealth Eye Health Consortium. The Countess, who is Vice Patron of Consortium funders The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, visited Lilongwe’s Kamuzu Hospital to see how the Consortium is contributing to long-term capacity building for the delivery of quality eye care services.
She met with Malawian eye doctors and other health workers who have received scholarships for academic training in public health and clinical fellowships funded through the Consortium. She observed first hand a training session on screening for diabetic retinopathy being conducted by a VISION 2020 LINKS team from Fife, UK. The LINK between Lilongwe and Fife is part of the Diabetic Retinopathy Network which aims to strengthen screening and treatment in DR through developing Diabetic Retinopathy Services within LINK institutions. There are two Diabetic Retinopathy Network LINKS within Malawi supported through the Consortium. The other LINK is between Blantyre and Liverpool.
During the visit, the Countess tested a pupil’s vision at Mchesi Primary School with the Peek Acuity app as part of a demonstration of the Peek school screening system to identify children with visual impairment. She also looked at a retina (the back of the eye) using Peek Retina, a smartphone camera adapter which she first saw as a prototype during a visit to the School in 2015.
Professor Matthew Burton, Professor of International Eye Health and Commonwealth Eye Health Consortium Director, said of the visit: “Malawi is making great strides in its efforts to increase eye care services and tackle avoidable blindness. The scholars and fellows the Countess met today are playing a key role in leading eye-health developments in the country. I am delighted that the Countess is so supportive of eye health and that she was able to see how our Trust-funded programmes are working to increase capacity and bring long-term and large-scale improvements through people, knowledge and tools.”
Action plans at the DR-NET Workshop
The Diabetic Retinopathy Network (DR-NET) is a five-year project intended to reduce blindness due to diabetic retinopathy (DR) across the Commonwealth. In October 2016 a workshop was held in Durban, South Africa, with the aim of developing a two-year action plan to develop DR services for each DR-NET partner, specific to their national or regional situation. The DR-NET Planning Workshop was held alongside our funders The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust’s DR Advocacy Workshop.
Each DR-NET partner was tasked to review and built on the progress made in 2015 and 2016, develop local and national activity plans for 2017-2019 and share learning so that practical improvements can be made in 2017-2019. To aid the work a practical toolkit was made available.
Since the 2014 workshop a number of achievements were noted. These included an increase in screening and treatment for patients, more equipment available and increased training for health workers and allied professions.
At the end of the Workshop, each country group left with a 2-year action plan to be implemented, based on needs and priorities, whilst noting the importance of advocacy and collaboration with Ministries of Health.
Celebrating the launch of Peek Retina
Peek Vision held a special event to celebrate the official launch of Peek Retina and to thank the supporters who helped reach this important point. Around 200 guests from all over the world attended The Peek Social Impact story: how technology and knowledge is increasing access to eye care.
The event was held at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in April and included a talk by Peek co-founder and CEO Dr Andrew Bastawrous. He described how the ideas first formed, the journey so far and next steps involving funding and partnerships to enable Peek to make significant impact on avoidable blindness on a large scale.
Opening the evening, Professor Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, one of the Consortium’s key partners, pointed to the importance of collaboration with a new generation of research and innovation – which Peek epitomises – to tackle health challenges.
Peek’s newly-developed smartphone camera adapter, Peek Retina, was made possible by the collaborative effort of Peek’s partners the International Centre for Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the University of Strathclyde and the Glasgow Centre for Ophthalmic Research, as well as funding from The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, and lastly the contribution of a huge number of individuals and organisations to take the idea of a phone-based ophthalmoscope through the challenges of design and manufacture of Peek’s first hardware product which will increase access to eye examination and care.
This included backers of the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign and some of the biggest individual Gold supporters were presented with a special thank you Peek Retina pack during the event (pictured above).
Featured CEHC Scholar: Dr. Selassie Tagoh (Accra, Ghana)
I am an Optometrist from Ghana. While I was getting ready to travel to South Africa to pursue my Masters in Community Eye Health, one thing was on my mind: to equip myself with significant appropriate knowledge and skills that will put me in a better position to contribute meaningfully to knowledge in eye care delivery in Ghana and Africa, through the production of robust relevant research evidence that will inform eye care policy in Ghana and on the continent. One year on and I can confidently say my expectations have been largely met.
My award of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust Scholarship and studying at the University of Cape Town (UCT) has been a memorable experience. The hands-on approach to the teaching and learning process coupled with the wide array of resources available both locally and internationally have made my studies worthwhile. I have acquired significant knowledge especially in the area of conducting research and producing cutting edge research evidence that can help shape policy. One such significant experience was the knowledge I acquired in Biostatics, Research methods, and Evidence based health care. These courses have given me a solid footing to be able to design, conduct and report research in community eye health and other related fields.
UCT had a very conducive learning environment as well as some of the best accommodation facilities that made me feel at home throughout my stay in Cape Town. Life in Cape Town was fascinating with so many things to learn and admire. There have been some challenges in relation to student protests at the later part of the first academic year, however I believe the experience has taught me to forge ahead and achieve my targets in the face of seeming challenges.
At present I am assiduously working on the write up for my research dissertation which looks at the prevalence of trachoma in Benue state of Nigeria using secondary trachoma data from the GTMP survey conducted earlier on in the state. The results of this research when completed, will guide eye care stakeholders in Nigeria on the need or otherwise of a comprehensive programme to control trachoma in the state. It will help in meeting the goals of VISION/GET 2020 to eliminate blindness from avoidable causes.
I hope in the future to be more involved in eye care research and I’m willing to partner and work with both local and international entities who share a common interest of blindness prevention in my country and on the continent. I am currently working with the Light House Mission Hospital as an Optometrist and I have been actively involved in community outreach programmes undertaken by the hospital for drivers in the community.
Opportunity: Free online courses
We have several free online courses available which have been developed through the Consortium. They include:
- Ophthalmic epidemiology 1. Basic principles
- Ophthalmic epidemiology 2. Application to eye disease
- Global blindness: Planning and managing eye care services
- Eliminating trachoma (register your interest; dates TBC)
These courses are suitable for:
- A wide range of eye health professionals and trainees. Flexible content is designed to support learning within different local settings.
- Educators and training institutions to use and adapt to strengthen public health for eye care curriculum and capacity.
More information and links to the courses can be found here.
The Commonwealth Eye Health Consortium is a group of eye health organisations from several Commonwealth countries working together to deliver an exciting, integrated, five-year programme of fellowships, research and technology which aims, over the long-term, to strengthen eye health systems and quality of eye care throughout the Commonwealth.
The Consortium is funded by The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust.