Optics and Photonics for the Developing World

Rebecca Richards-Kortum and Jennifer Carns

Rebecca Richards-Kortum and Jennifer Carns discuss how new light technologies could improve health care in low-resource settings.


figureA hot cot in use at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Malawi. [Deb Niemeier/UC Davis]

Advances in photonic technologies have led to significant improvements in health care; immunofluorescence microscopy, optical coherence tomography and fluorescence-activated cell sorting are all a routine part of medicine in high-resource settings such as the United States. With the low cost and low power consumption of many photonic technologies, it seems that they could also improve health care in low-resource settings, such as sub-Saharan Africa. However, a comparison of the per capita health care expenditures in the United States (over US$8,000) and Malawi (US$74) as reported by the World Health Organization gives an indication of the vast difference in resources available for health care between the two countries.

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