OSA Launches Collaborative Network Aimed at Improving Global Health

Global Health Initiative created to promote optics based technologies for improving health care

WASHINGTON – Leaders in optics and photonics today announced the launch of The Optical Society (OSA) Global Health Initiative (GHI). The GHI expands OSA’s international public policy efforts to educate policymakers and influencers about photonics technologies. A panel discussion highlighting GHI was held Tuesday, 13 April during the 2021 OSA Biophotonics Congress: Optics in the Life Sciences.

The COVID-19 pandemic illuminated the impact of infectious diseases on human life and the economy. The GHI aims to support the optical technologies used to screen, diagnose, treat and reduce the spread of the SARS-CoV 2 virus and other health threats. OSA members working in relevant areas will participate in a steering committee to guide the effort.

“We are looking for a way to cross borders to find particular challenges that every country” would want to address such as global health, said OSA CEO Elizabeth Rogan.

The panel, led by 2009 OSA President Tom Baer, Stanford University, USA with GHI participants Manu Prakash, Stanford University and Nichole Starr, University of California San Francisco, USA, discussed current projects that could be supported through collaborative efforts.

The opportunity to deploy technologies in communities across the globe is an exciting prospect, Prakash noted. “The next challenge is ensuring equitable access to these technologies broadly.”

The GHI will convene meetings of international experts and identify specific technology development for improved global health care in areas such as the following:

  1. Low-cost surveillance monitoring of infectious diseases
  2. Low-cost telemedicine diagnosis of diseases
  3. Improved methods for genetic sequencing of viruses
  4. Identification of water born parasites
  5. Low-cost fetal distress monitors during birth and in neonatal monitoring
  6. Portable skin cancer detection devices

Baer also described the joint OSA Foundation and Stanford University, UV-C decontamination chambers project to sterilize Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as n95 masks.

“We developed design principles for the particular application of the decontamination devices,” said Baer. “We then worked with the foundation and enabled OSA Student Chapters to construct these devices. About 50 have been built in 25 different locations around the world. This illustrates what OSA can bring in terms of utilizing its membership and technical expertise to implement these devices.”

The OSA GHI plans to explore collaborations with international health organizations and scientific societies, foundations, and experts involved with global health. This work will ultimately identify opportunities to fund technology development and deployment and support OSA member engagement with their governments.

/Public Release. This material comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.