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By Cathleen O’Grady
Hesperian Health Guides, Foundation Beyond Belief’s current Poverty and Health beneficiary, got its start in Mexico in 1973 when it published a simple manual addressing community health needs with accurate medical information, conveyed in a culturally appropriate manner. This manual, Donde No Hay Doctor, was translated into English four years later as Where There Is No Doctor.
Skip forward to today, and Where There Is No Doctor has spread like wildfire. Not only has the World Health Organization called it one of the world’s most widely used health guides, but this year, Where There Is No Doctor celebrates 40 years in circulation, 28 updated editions, and its launch as an e-book.
Where There Is No Doctor’s availability in e-book format will greatly increase Hesperian’s ability to distribute critical health information to remote communities. The organization’s Gratis Books Program, a book donation program run by Hesperian volunteers, is limited by shipping costs and other factors, but the availability of an e-book will exponentially increase access to medical information for communities around the world.
To make this real, Hesperian has initiated a partnership with San Francisco-based Worldreader to distribute thousands of Kindles pre-loaded with Where There Is No Doctor in schools across Sub-saharan Africa. Both organizations pride themselves on ensuring that their work is relevant to the communities they serve. Hesperian works closely with local organizations and community leaders to create content that is accessible, culturally appropriate, and relevant, and Worldreader has a tested and appreciated delivery system.
Hesperian’s projects are riding the wave of information technology to improve their content and distribution methods. Hesperian’s Digital Commons Initiative allows users across the globe not only to access and download health text and images in a variety of formats, but also to translate and customize the content. With mobile device usage increasing exponentially around the world, Hesperian’s digital initiative intends to employ emerging digital technology to get lifesaving medical knowledge onto cell phones and other accessible devices.