Designers help people to see and medicine to hitch a ride with cola


This year’s “Designs
of the Year”
(an annual competition staged by Design Museum, London)
include two entries focussed on improving the health of people in developing

The first
is a pair of spectacles, whose lenses are filled with liquid silicon
via mini-syringes in the arms. All the wearer has to do is adjust a dial
to fill the lens (so changing its shape) until the world comes into
their refractive error corrected. Thus you don’t need an optometrist to work
out your prescription for you.                

Optometrists are in short supply in Africa &
India, so even if you can get hold of a pair of donated spectacle frames &
maybe the money to pay for the lenses ( =3 months wages in Africa), you mostly can’t
get someone to assess your prescription! Uncorrected refractive error and
cataract are the major causes of blindness in developing countries. There’s
only so much Unite for Sight and Vision20:20 can do in training &
field visits. 

These spectacles, whilst not high-fashion, will eliminate
the need for lens prescriptions and expert fitting, and would seem to be the
solution to getting 1 billion people to see properly for the first time.

Image: ColaLife 

The second design addresses the problem of getting a known
lifesaving treatment (oral rehydration salts therapy, ORT) to children with diarrhea in
rural villages.  You can see ads for bottled
cola and buy it in almost every village in Africa (along with your mobile phone
supplies), and the bottles are delivered in crates. A clever couple have
designed an ORT kit (Kit Yamoy) which
fits snugly inbetween the necks of the bottles in the crate. Kit Yamoy provides
rehydration salts & clean water in separate sachets, a bar of soap to wash
your hands, and the container its all packed in acts as both measure and
drinking cup. Each sachet is enough for one dose to save the life of a child
with diarrhoea: a crate can carry many kits and of course you don’t have to pay
transport costs, because it comes along with the cola!                                   

It is to be hoped that, whether or not these designs become
the overall winner, there is interest in the aid community, local and regional
governments of developing countries or even the  design community/ad agencies, such as Saatchi
& Saatchi
TO provide funding to cover the costs of supplying the spectacles
and ORT Cola-kit.

You can see these designs, along with a wheelchair that
folds flat and a bicycle mounted digital printer outlet (!), by physically
visiting the Design Museum exhibition or get a taste online at Highlights of
Design Awards 2013

I hope writing this blog spreads the word about these 2 brilliant
designs BUT to make absolutely sure, I will be sending information on them
direct to the people who could make use of them or who could inform others
about them. I will be sending it to HIFA2015,
a campaign and knowledge network with more than 6,000 members
in 167 countries worldwide. The campaign is to
ensure everyone wherever they are has access to lifesaving health information.

Its not just Africa and India that need these designs. A quick
search on CABI’s  Global Health database using
[de:("vision disorders" and epidemiology) AND cc:vv600 AND
de:(children OR adolescents]),  reveals they
are needed  across the world by poor
communities in Peru, Indonesia, Vietnam,  and even Eastern Europe!

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