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COVID-19 Relief Work in India

Thomas Baer, 2009 President & Fellow

Optica has launched the Global Health Initiative (GHI). A critical project under this new effort focuses specifically on India. Working with the Optica Foundation and IndiaCovidSOS, we have procured and shipped thousands of oxygen saturation meters—pulse oximeters—to India, helping individuals, families, and communities in limited-resource settings better manage their health amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

One out of ten people diagnosed with COVID-19 requires supplemental oxygen to survive. Oxygen is in short supply and hospitals are overcrowded. The foundation and its India-based partners are enabling healthcare workers, communities, and family members to measure an individual's oxygen saturation levels at home. Understanding a patients’ blood saturation helps determine when to seek medical attention and supplemental oxygen. These devices are being distributed without charge as part of a community sharing program.

The GHI and the foundation provide the leadership to leverage optics-based technology to help address this healthcare need in India. Pulse oximeters are an excellent example of inexpensive but impactful optical technology. To date, 12,100 devices have been procured and distributed through community sharing programs in Bangalore and Chhattisgarh. The GHI oversaw oximeter testing and calibration before they shipped. We also created an infographic to guide non-medical caregivers on pulse oximeter use. We are planning to distribute more devices to the region.

The GHI Working Group is comprised of experts in international public health, optics and medicine. The group is charged with advising on impactful optics and photonics technologies that address real-world healthcare challenges, especially in limited-resource regions, and where international cooperation is helpful to accelerate progress.

To learn more about the Global Health Initiative, please visit our webpage. If you would like to connect with the project in India, please contact Raminder Singh at

GHI Working Group members:


Tom Baer, Chair, GHI Working Group and Stanford University

Arnab Bhattacharya, Member, GHI Working Group and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research

Manu Prakash, Member, GHI Working Group and Stanford University



Nichole Starr, Member, GHI Working Group and UCSF and LifeBox

Ashley Rene Styczynski, Member, GHI Working Group and Stanford University

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