St Andrews students in bid to help prevent deafness and blindness in Africa

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On World Sight Day, 11th October 2018, two St Andrews students, Merlin Hetherington and Alex McMaster, set off on a tandem bike to cycle 12,000 km across the African continent from Cairo to Cape Town, arriving on May 15th 2019.

Their aim was to help in the fight against preventable blindness and deafness by distributing the Arclight, a low cost instrument for examining ears and eyes, and by training healthcare professionals to use it in all the countries they passed through. In total, 1050 instruments were distributed along the way.

The Arclight is a robust, compact, solar-powered ophthalmoscope and otoscope that works as well as traditional devices but at a fraction of the cost: it’s solar powered and uses a patented LED and therefore doesn’t require expensive and hard-to-find replacement parts such as batteries and bulbs.

In addition, it only takes one hour to train 30 students to use the device to diagnose the main causes of blindness and deafness that affect millions of people in low-income countries, so we’re providing the next generation of health professionals with the tools needed to combat eye and ear disease.

80% of blindness and 50% of deafness in Africa is avoidable if diagnosed and prevented or treated – so the Arclight has the potential to be a game changer.

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