Rapid Development of Public Health Education Systems in Low-Literacy Multilingual Environments: Combating Ebola Through Voice Messaging.
Nikolas Wolfe*, Juneki Hong*, Ali Raza, Bhiksha Raj, and Roni Rosenfeld (2015).
One of the main challenges in combating the spread of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a lack of effective public health education among affected populations in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Difficulties include resistance to official sources of information, mistrust of government, cultural norms, linguistic barriers, and illiteracy. In this paper we describe the development and initial deployment of a voice-based, multilingual mobile phone application to spread reliable public health information about Ebola via peer-to-peer sharing. Our hypothesis is that we can overcome mistrust and disseminate important health information via the power of social learning and suggestion from friends, family, and local communities. In collaboration with partners on the ground in Conakry, Guinea, we have launched two parallel mobile phone services known as Polly Game and Polly Health to enable message sharing in several Guinean languages. We discuss a variety of strategies we have tried to encourage the spread of the application and data on uptake to date.