HRH Countess of Wessex sees eye health projects in action on her 50th birthday visit to the School

Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex marked her 50th birthday by visiting eye health projects at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Accompanied by her husband, HRH the Earl of Wessex, she met staff and students working on The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust's avoidable blindness programme. The International Centre for Eye Health at the School is a lead partner of the Trust, advising on and implementing a number of its programmes to strengthen eye health care in Commonwealth countries.

Sir Tim Lankester, Chairman of the School's Council, and Baroness Hogg, Trustee of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, introduced the royal couple to staff and students working on the Commonwealth Eye Health Consortium and projects to eliminate blinding trachoma, and reduce blindness in people living with diabetes, and in premature babies.

The Earl and Countess also met the team behind Peek, the Portable Eye Examination Kit, which turns a smartphone into a comprehensive eye exam tool that can be easily and affordably used in remote areas. After being shown how the kit works, the Countess had a go herself and looked inside her husband's eye, successfully capturing a clear image of his retina on the phone's screen.

Dr Astrid Bonfield from The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust announced at the event that the Countess has become Vice-Patron of the charity. The Countess blew out the candles on a birthday cake from the Trust, and spoke to School and Trust staff over tea.

Before leaving, she was presented with a posy by seven-year-old Hannah Burton, the daughter of the School's Dr Matthew Burton.

Ophthalmologist Dr Burton, Reader & Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in Clinical Science, said: "The Countess and Earl were both extremely interested in hearing about our work, and eye health is evidently something the Countess is passionate about. They asked lots of insightful questions, as well as sharing some of their experiences of seeing projects overseas. They also seemed to enjoy trying out the Peek technology - the Countess had a natural talent for it."

The School's International Centre for Eye Health is made up of world-leading experts working to improve eye health and eliminate avoidable visual impairment and blindness with a focus on low-income populations. Their work responds to on-the ground needs and supports the delivery of eye care services. Activities include advocacy for policy development, providing evidence for programming and practice, developing and building capacity and partnerships for research, and training leaders in the prevention of blindness.

Related links:

COVID-19 Response Fund

There cannot be any complacency as to the need for global action.

With your help, we can plug critical gaps in the understanding of COVID-19. This will support global response efforts and help to save lives around the world.