Globally, a moral imperative exists to ensure that all children are provided with the resources and environment necessary to enable them to reach their individual potential, and the call for investment to improve the health of children is almost universal. In parallel technological approaches are being sought to simplify prevention, diagnosis and management of disease. However, national resources for health are sparse and massive demands already exist, hence much must be achieved through health promotion at a community level, and to be viable any novel technologies must be simple and/or cost effective. Health promoting schools (HPS) have proven potential for positively impacting the determinants of health, and technologies employing light now show promise in a range of relevant health care applications.
The World Health Organization defines a health promoting school as one that “uses a whole-school approach to enhance the health and educational outcomes of children through teaching and learning experiences initiated in the schools.” The knowledge and practices acquired provide individuals and communities with greater control over determinants of health. A colloquium recently brought together experts in HPS at STIAS to review the lessons learned to date and define the key elements and optimum processes for establishing and sustaining effective HP schools. Now, a consensus statement to guide further expansion of HPS programmes particularly in sub-Saharan Africa is in preparation; a monograph of the papers presented is to be published; research papers on programme evaluation are being written; and a collaborative grant proposal prepared.
Photonic devices (those using light energy) can monitor a range of physiologic parameters. Light emitting diodes are an inexpensive source of non toxic energy, and ongoing advances in photonics hardware and software make non invasive real time measurement and imaging possible. Novel applications related to renal and bladder function have been developed (worldwide the morbidity and mortality related to such disease is considerable), and current research is aimed at developing the function and scope of miniature devices that will improve quality of life for children, patients with spinal cord injury, and pregnant women.