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Sharing books that help people take the lead in their health care

Page history last edited by Rosemary 8 years ago

he Hesperian Foundation is a non-profit publisher of books that help people take the lead in their own health care and organize to improve community health conditions. Simply written, heavily illustrated, and developed collaboratively, Hesperian’s books are designed so people with little formal education can understand, apply and share health information. Hesperian’s first book, Where there is no doctor, is considered one of the world’s most accessible and widely used community health books.

Seven books can now be completely downloaded from the site:

  • Where There Is No Doctor – updated in '06
  • Where Women Have No Doctor – updated in '06
  • A Book for Midwives – 2005 edition
  • HIV Health and Your Community – updated in '06
  • Helping Children Who Are Deaf – new in 2004
  • Helping Children Who Are Blind
  • Ayudar a los niños ciegos
  • Where There Is No Dentist – updated in '06
  • Donde no hay dentista – 2006 edition

The books address underlying social, political, and economic causes of poor health and suggest how groups can improve health conditions in their communities. Hesperian's global network includes lay health workers, trainers, and health educators who take part in preparing and distributing books, ensuring information is practical, useful, and culturally appropriate; doctors, nurses, midwives, physical therapists, pharmacists and other professionally trained health care providers who ensure information is accurate; and community leaders and organizers who provide feedback and share information about health issues in their communities.

Hesperian concentrates on developing new and revised publications to respond to pressing health concerns, and ensuring publications reach those who need them most. Its multi-faceted distribution strategy includes a royalty-free "open-copyright" policy encourages organizations to reproduce, translate and adapt materials for distribution on a not-for-profit basis; low prices for people in developing countries, and special funds that support distribution, translation, and creative community education.

Hesperian's Gratis Fund, entirely run by volunteers, recognizes that often those who most need the books are least able to afford them. In 2004, 1,985 books were shipped to 63 countries and to US communities. An average 200 requests for free books are received each month, from religious leaders, community health workers, school teachers and others desperate for resources.

In 1997, Hesperian began a Translations Fund that provides seed grants to enable groups to translate and produce sample Hesperian materials, which they can then use to secure additional funding from larger donors. Hesperian provides electronic versions of the texts and illustrations, and limited technical advice. Hesperian’s books have been or are being translated into more than 120 languages from Haitian Creole to Kiswahili to Dari to Tibetan to Quechua. (All of its books are produced in English and Spanish.)

The Creative Education Fund (CEF) gives one-time-only grants to small, grassroots organizations in poor countries that encourage participants to use Hesperian publications to develop original and creative health education activities that will benefit women. CEF supported projects include using puppets to expand the skills of traditional birth attendants (India); a running race for women with hurdles that represent barriers they face to safer sex (Kenya); a question and answer poetry contest on HIV/AIDS prevention (Ethiopia); easy-to-read, illustrated pamphlets on mental health (Nepal); and radio plays about power relationships between men and women and how this affects sexual health (Haiti).

Hesperian Foundation, 1919 Addison Street, Suite 304, Berkeley, CA 94704, USA. Email.

This story is adapted from materials on the Hesperian Foundation website


UPDATE: 'Where There is no Doctor' now on CD

Nov. 17, 2009 - Hesperian has just released a CD version of "Where There Is No Doctor / Donde no hay doctor". The CD contains hi-resolution and low-resolution PDFs of the entire contents in both English and Spanish, exactly as they appear in the books. Because it's lightweight, the CD is easier to transport and much less expensive to post than a book. Hesperian also has the CD version of  "A Community Guide to Environmental Health".

The CDs are available for sale at www.hesperian.org, and their contents can be downloaded free at http://www.hesperian.org/publications_download.php.



You can find some other stories of similar sharing (both north-south and south-north) on Hopebuilding wiki. See:

Old US hospital equipment, vital supplies bring new life in developing countries

North South research collaboration produces effective TB vaccine for HIV patients

Sharing surplus US lab equipment empowers African researchers

Reconditioned US bicycles provide transportation in the developing world

Telemedicine charity links developing world's doctors with specialists to provide needed care

Developing world's health care innovations find a way to the west

Kangaroo mother care, developed in Colombia, now saves babies in Malawi

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