One of the key gaps in many global health programs is effective consumer education. There is a critical need for effective education for illiterate or semi-literate people to complement existing health and water interventions, such as correct usage of bed nets, or adherence to HIV treatment. Low-cost paper pamphlets are commonly used to educate consumers, but are an ineffective way to reach largely illiterate populations. In-person trainers are expensive and difficult to come by, as health personnel are scarce in developing countries. As many new initiatives in public health (malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS, etc.) are being rolled out, global health programs are asking themselves: “How do we effectively get the word out to our target customers about these life-saving programs?”
The Speaking Book addresses this key communication gap by allowing a customer to see, read, hear and understand critical healthcare messages. Each Speaking Book features 16 pages of full-color illustrations supported by straightforward and easy to understand text. For each page, there is a corresponding push button that triggers a sound track of the text, read by well-known local celebrities in the local language. A durable, laminated hard backed book, each Speaking Book is specially designed to take the reader on a step-by-step guide to wellness.
Books of Hope, a US-based company, developed the Speaking Books series in partnership with a South African NGO. With 45 titles in 15 languages covering topics from HIV/AIDS to malaria, mental illness to clinical trials, smoking cessation to TB, Books of Hope is a global leader in healthcare education, meeting a critical need for healthcare education with an innovative solution.
Acumen Fund invested $150,000 in Books of Hope in 2007. Since Acumen Fund’s investment, Books of Hope has sold more than 250,000 Speaking Books, with more on the way. Books of Hope was recently honored as the recipient of one of the 2011 Technology in Government Awards at eLearning Africa’s 6th International Conference for Information and Communication Technologies for Development, Education, and Training. These awards, given out in Dar es salaam, Tanzania, are sponsored by the Economic Commission for Africa, the Government of Finland, and the eLearning Africa Scholarship Trust.
Rob Katz is Acumen Fund’s Knowledge Porfolio Manager and is based in Mumbai, India.