Speaking Books Recognized as Making Major Contribution to Health Care in Rural South Africa
The 2008 Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management
(CAPAM) International Innovations Awards programme invited Commonwealth
members to submit services or ideas that 'demonstrate excellence in service
delivery and citizen engagement'. Submissions were ranked based on the
following criteria: effectiveness, innovation, relevance, significance,
replicability and appropriateness to national or local context. This year
from 140 applicants, one South African innovation , The Speaking Book , has
made the Top 10.
Also in the finals are participants from Singapore, Malaysia, Kenya, India
and Canada, with Health care, IT and Agriculture some of the fields of
innovation. Presentations will be made in Barbados on Thursday and Friday and
the winner will be announced on Wednesday 22nd of October. .
"SADAG are really excited and honoured to have been chosen as a Top 10
Finalist", says Wilson. "We know how well the Books work and what a a
huge difference they make to the people who need it most. We are really
looking forward to sharing and showcasing the Speaking Book s to the
rest of the commonwealth".
The Speaking Book, a world first, was conceived by SADAG, the South
African Depression and Anxiety Group (NGO) , to create an interactive,
multilingual educational tool that can be seen, read, heard and understood
by the reader regardless of their reading ability.
Illiteracy is a life-threatening problem that jeopardizes health care
globally, further aggravated by the lack of capacity and resources in
Africa to provide even the most basic personal instruction and education.
Previously the most cost-efficient means of educating people has been
through written pamphlets and brochures, but there is now universal
agreement that this is ineffective . In South Africa up to 30% of South
African adults are illiterate.
In South Africa 1 in 5 people suffer from depression and other mental
illnesses and for many, particularly those in rural areas, it's especially
hard as stigma and misunderstanding are huge hurdles and many suffer in
silence. This is why three years ago SADAG started working with books that
had sound tracks. A key component was to use a celebrity voice such as
Lillian Dube, Zwai Bala, Rosie Motene, and Redi Direko which research
indicated helped the listener identify with the problem and not feel as
Book s, were then produced in a variety of languages for South Africa,
including, Zulu, Pedi, Xhosa and Sotho and more recently have crossed the
border to include, Portugeese and Swahili, and Spanish and Mandarrin further
The South Africa Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), SA's largest mental
health NGO, has been committed for the past 15 years to educating the public
on critical health issues. Topics which have been covered apart from mental health which
inculudes Teen suicide prevention, Depression in AIDS patients and
Understanding bipolar and schizophrenia, have been expanded to include,
Malaria, Treating TB, Preventing youth from rishky behaviours which can
cause AIDs, Vaccines , and Diabetes
"Leaving written information and pamphlets in areas with low levels of literacy
is expensive and once the organisation has left the area, there is no
back-up for communities" says Speaking Books creator Zane Wilson, “”The Book is a simple tool
that allows anyone access to information in a time frame that suits them
and in the privacy of their own home They can be played as often as
required to reinforce the message.
Speaking Books are hardbacked, battery driven, full of big, bright colourful
local drawings and the panel of 16 buttons along the side allows the reader
to activate the audio message that follows the text of each page of the
Speaking Book – allowing the sick, elderly , children or low literacy
readers to access healthcare information and help.
The Books are distributed to Community care Workers, Home based Care
Workers , Faith based organisations, who are encouraged to leave the book
with patients who don't read well and who often live in areas with little
access to health care. . Research shows that each book reaches a minimum
of 27 people, with messages that are “”Ëasy to understand”” by 98% of the Home
Based Care workers, 93% indicated that they learnt new facts from the books and70% of patients said that the
Books helped them understand their illness..
The bo0ks are being distributed far more than was initially hoped. They
are being shown at shopping centres, clinics, churches, taxi ranks, bottle
stores, shebeens ( local pubs), even weddings and savings clubs." and have
rapidly been adopted by local communities as their local resource for important and sensitive health care information.
They are now being moved into other areas such as teaching people How to
access government grants and what documents are required, How to care for a
child headed household, How to register and vote, and How to open a bank account and use a credit card.