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Press Release: Bay Area supporters of Hesperian Health Guides celebrate 40 years with Where There Is No Doctor

September 20, 2013

Berkeley, CA – September 20, 2013 – more than 200 friends and supporters of Where There Is No Doctor, Hesperian Health Guides’ flagship title, gathered last night at the David Brower Center in Berkeley to celebrate 40 years saving lives through empowering health information. Since its first publication in 1973, Where There Is No Doctor has undergone 28 updated editions, has been translated into 80 languages, and more than 3 million copies in circulation have touched the lives of well over 100 million people around the world- the World Health Organization has called it “the most widely used health guide in the world.”

Executive Director Sarah Shannon addressing the crowd at the David Brower Center.

The event featured celebratory comments by Hesperian’s Executive Director, Sarah Shannon, who commented on the global applications of Where There Is No Doctor and other Hesperian titles: “30 years ago, I smuggled copies of Donde no hay doctor (Where There Is No Doctor in Spanish) over the border from Honduras into El Salvador so that communities in conflict zones could address some of their most pressing health problems. Four years ago, the Ministry of Health of Mozambique printed its own edition, adapted to conditions in southern Africa, as the central resource for primary health care workers. In Afghanistan, an edition of Where Women have no Doctor was printed with a blank cover so women could safely learn about and address their health needs. In more than 80 languages, and virtually every continent and country in the world, from Antarctica to Zimbabwe, millions of copies of Hesperian’s books pass from hand to hand and change lives. ”

Shannon also introduced a new video recently produced by a Hesperian volunteer, which demonstrated the need for a book like Where There Is No Doctor.

Hesperian’s Lily Walkover helps our youngest donor, Sydney, tape her story to the Where There Is No Doctor interactive timeline.

“It all starts from a belief that people have the right to health. Health is not a privilege, it shouldn’t have to be earned, and it shouldn’t be something that can be denied or taken away. When Where There Is No Doctor first appeared, it tried to answer the question: Don’t people without access to medical care and medical facilities have the right to health?”

Through the development and provision of easy-to-read, heavily illustrated health materials, Hesperian strives to equip communities with the information they need to take greater control over their health and work to eliminate the underlying causes of poor health.

While best known for Where There Is No Doctor, Hesperian Health Guides has also published 9 additional titles in English and Spanish on topics including women’s health, disability, health worker training, environmental health, dentistry, and early childhood development. Titles in development focus on the health of factory workers, children living with HIV, and include a completely revised edition of Where There Is No Doctor.

Eva Harris, UC Berkeley School of Public Health professor and Faculty Director of the University’s Center for Global Public Health; Co-founder and Board President of the Sustainable Sciences Institute; and MacArthur Fellow explained why she volunteers her time as a Hesperian board member:

“Where There Is No Doctor has been, and continues to be, the go-to book for anyone doing health work at a community level,” said Harris, “and what’s remarkable is that while Hesperian has continued to develop and publish new health materials, it has not only kept up with the latest developments in global health but has actually kept far ahead of the technological curve.”

Project Coordinator Zena Herman cuts the cake for guests.

Over the past three years, the organization has developed creative ways to harness internet and mobile technologies to improve access to health information, most recently by partnering with San Francisco-based WorldReader to provide Where There Is No Doctor on donated Kindles throughout 9 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. An open copyright policy encourages NGOs around the world to translate and adapt Hesperian materials, many of which are available for free through Hesperian’s website on the Hesperian HealthWiki, a groundbreaking repository of free health content.

 “We want to be able to accompany and empower community health workers as they extend increasingly scarce medical resources to everybody who needs them. We want to be there with them, and we want to be a part of achieving health for all in the next 40 years,” said Shannon.

For more information about the event and for photographs, call 510-845-1447 or email [email protected].