The smart doctor and app that opens rural eyes: Business Day

Vula app


My first piece for Business Day was published yesterday – in the paper and on the website. I’m really happy to have been able to tell this good news m-health story, about a homegrown app and the amazing doctor who made it happen.

Here is a brief extract:

AT VREDENDAL North Clinic in the Matzikama district, Western Cape, ophthalmic nurse Elizma Anthonissen takes a picture of a patient’s eye with her smartphone and updates the patient’s secure records.

About 300km away in Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town, ophthalmologist Dr William Mapham gets a notification; Anthonissen needs a consultation.

The two work collaboratively on patient care, using pictures and cellphone chats to discuss diagnosis, using a mobile application called Vula Eye Health. Vula means “open” in Xhosa and Zulu. Mapham is the app’s creator and Anthonissen one of its “super users”.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 246-million people worldwide have low vision, and 39-million are blind. As much as “80% of all visual impairment can be prevented or cured”, says the WHO, but many do not get the treatment needed.

Cataracts, which are relatively easily treated through surgery, are the chief cause of blindness in middle-and low-income countries. Vula hopes to address this dearth of appropriate care.

For the full story, go here:

For more on Vula, visit

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