Week 1

Creative Inquiry 396: Inquiry to Impact Workshop Series

Throughout my journey at Lehigh University, I have gone through the motions of class, homework, test.

Rinse and Repeat.

This seemingly endless cycle has given me a great opportunity to learn theory and how to ace tests, but is there more? I am a Global Social Impact Fellow because I value real-world change that is sustainable, impact-driven, and culturally appropriate. I hope to make a career out of Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship and what better way than to take a “class” in exactly that!

As mentioned in my intro, I am a student in Healthcare Systems Engineering and Public Health. More broadly, I am an IDEAS Major. Through this course, I hope to gain a better understanding of how my two concentrations can be applied to the international development field. I am particularly interested in understanding the stress that focusing on one sustainable development goal (SDG) has on the other SDGs. In addition, Humanitarian Engineering is so much more than engineering, this area is multidisciplinary at heart, and I am excited to learn about the other threads that encompass this space.

Furthermore, this course can help me to strengthen my foundation in the international development field, and teach me how to apply my knowledge to the real world. For example, here is an open-ended case study that we will be discussing:

“The World Health Organization estimates that over one billion people who need eyeglasses do not have access to them. The vast majority of these people live in developing countries like Kenya where there is barely one optometrist per one million people. Given the high poverty levels, access to eyeglasses is almost non-existent. Lack of proper eyeglasses severely impacts people and their livelihoods by decreasing their productivity at work, limiting or eliminating new opportunities, affecting their quality of life, deteriorating their general health and possibly leading to (preventable) blindness. What solution do you propose to address this problem?”

This is a very complex and multifaceted issue. One possible solution is creating a social enterprise. I would utilize the community health worker system and instruct them to conduct the standard eye test. (Snellen Eye Chart) This test addresses two major eye problems: nearsightedness and farsightedness. The idea is to simply screen people who may have eye problems at the community level. Everyone who scores out of the normal range gets referred to a clinic.

This is where the problem becomes a supply chain nightmare. At a clinic, the patient would be tested by trained nurses or health officials and written a specific prescription for glasses. In the best case scenario, this clinic would have interchangeable lenses that can fit into a generic frame. The patient would then pay for his or her glasses and be on their way.

This solution requires three key technologies: The first is a generic frame that can fit all lenses. Secondly, the lenses must meet the most common prescriptions for treating nearsightedness and farsightedness. In addition, they must all be the same size and fit into the generic frame (I’m thinking snap on or clasps) The final technology to successfully run this enterprise is a standardized eye screening test, like the Snellen Eye Chart.

Reading through this solution I can already see several problems or questions that might arise:

  • How do the lenses & glasses get to the clinics
  • Can this technology be cost-effective without jeopardizing its functionality
  • How will the training work on the Community Health Worker level and at the clinic level?
  • How do people know that they should be tested?

I could go on and on about the possible problems with this solution. However, through this class, I am extremely excited to learn more about how to effectively address problems such as this.


Till next time!

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