Author: Brian Julius, October 22 2014 - Every year, NGOs, international donors, and government health departments spend billions of dollars on health care education in developing and third world countries. The vast majority of these projects fail.

Too often the initial reaction to health issues like Polio outbreaks, Malaria, and now Ebola is First World in its thinking - let’s put equipment in the hospitals and clinics, let’s send vaccines, let’s send medication. In developing countries (Africa in particular) is convincing outlying, largely illiterate and often war-torn populations, that they can be empowered to take action for their health and trust donors’ solutions. When Bill Gates was asked what was his greatest failure, he responded that he thought developing new vaccines was the answer, when in fact the uptake was very low because the local population had not been educated or convinced.

Low levels of literacy mean that many health education outreach programmes are inaccessible or inappropriate to rural, uneducated or disadvantaged communities. Health education booklets, pamphlets and workshops are severely limited in their reach due to community literacy, access, financial concerns and volunteer teams. In many regions, civil wars make going into an area dangerous or inaccessible.

The Speaking Book is a specifically created educational tool designed to effectively impart vital health information to low literacy and under-resourced communities. Developed in South Africa by a local NGO, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, the Speaking Books have been shown to be replicable and sustainable, and have been developed on multiple topics, in various language, for distribution in over 30 countries, on such critical health care issues as HIV and AIDS, Malaria, TB, Clinical Trials, Substance Abuse, Maternal Health, Safe Medicine, Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, Dementia, Government Grants, No Smoking  and Immunization for Pneumonia, Rotavirus and Polio

The most recent book, launching on the 24th October in Abuja, Nigeria, was created in collaboration with UNICEF and Rotary for End Polio Now (funded by the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation). UNICEF’s Community Mobilisers will be armed with the Speaking Book (15,000) to use as a communication tool to reach at risk communities. According to UNICEF, each VCM visits on average 100 households, with the potential that 15,000 Speaking Books will impact 1.5 million people. The books have been recorded in Hausa and English, approved by the Muslim leadership and dispel many of the myths surrounding Polio.

Recent research on the Maternal and Newborn Health Speaking Book in Ethiopia (published in the World Medical Journal) showed that the Speaking Book helped health workers gain entry into communities, improved trust and acceptance by members of the community, and increased vaccinations of newborn babies - and each book was shown to a minimum of 120 new mothers.

With the massive outbreak of Ebola, the Speaking Book is the ideal tool to disseminate accurate information to those at risk and help communities respond accurately and appropriately to the threat of Ebola’s spread. In areas with such a high threat of contagion, the Speaking Book is a tool that can be used safely and effectively - without putting care workers at risk. Visit the Speaking Books website for more on this innovation.

 “We shouldn't forget that this is a disease of poverty, of dysfunctional health systems - and of distrust," says Peter Piot, the scientist who in 1976 discovered and named the Ebola virus. - For this reason, information, communication and involvement of community leaders are as important as the classical medical approach, he argues.


The Speaking Book is an innovative and powerful tool that works with communities to gain trust and help them take responsibility for their own health. People with low levels of literacy and health literacy find the Speaking Books non-threatening, educational and offer reliable health messages. This is an interactive educational tool to create awareness and instruct low literacy communities. The Speaking Books understand and promote the power of education by enabling people to live healthier and more productive lives.


For more information,

Please contact Zane Wilson Founder of SADAG, South Africa 083 321 4163 /

Brian Julius, President Speaking Books USA, 843-298-1017 /