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Hesperian Goes Back to School: taking a lesson from California parents and caregivers to make the HealthWiki more mobile-friendly

March 27, 2014

Back in April of 2013, Hesperian Health Guides received a grant from The California Communications Access Foundation (CCAF) to provide free, online, multi-lingual early childhood development resources for California families of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The grant enabled Hesperian to put Helping Children Who Are Deaf into the HealthWiki in four languages (English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese) and to make the Hesperian HealthWiki, our online database of searchable health information, more user-friendly to visitors using mobile devices like tablets and phones. In 2013, about 300,000 people accessed Hesperian’s digital health information from mobile devices – as this number continues to grow, Hesperian is working hard to make our information increasingly accessible to those visitors.

Property of CEID.do not use outside of this blog.The activities in Helping Children Who Are Deaf were developed by families with children who are deaf or hard of hearing, deaf adults, early-intervention trained community-based development workers, health workers, educators, and other experts from 17 countries. As a part of Hesperian’s Early Assistance Series, the title is packed with activities focusing how to foster language learning, both through sign and oral approaches. The content is groundbreaking because it presents adaptable learning approaches across a wide variety of circumstances. The HealthWiki platform provides a unique opportunity to easily access and search this content for free, online, in four languages.

As a part of the process to make the HealthWiki more mobile-friendly, we collaborated with the Center for Early Intervention on Deafness (CEID) in our hometown of Berkeley, California. The CEID is an early intervention center providing services for young children who are deaf, hard of hearing or who have severe speech and language delays and their families.  Given their breadth of knowledge and experience, CEID staff, parents, and caregivers are a natural fit to provide us with feedback about Helping Children Who Are Deaf, as well as ideas to improve the site’s layout and overall accessibility on a phone or tablet.

photo (12)Tawnia Litwin, Hesperian’s Digital Projects Manager, headed up the testing at CEID throughout November and early December of 2013. “One-third of the HealthWiki traffic comes through mobile devices,” Tawnia said. “We’re really interested in trying to find out if this new mobile design is user-friendly, if it can be used ‘on-the-go’, and if the content is helpful.”

Parents and staff from CEID explored the new mobile-friendly HealthWiki platform on a tablet and gave feedback about the health content itself, as well as how easy it was to use and navigate within the resource, to find the information they were looking for, and to search for different types of information like activities and games. The testing process provided Hesperian with valuable insight about what materials parents and caregivers can best use in order to make informed decisions.

“One parent in particular really appreciated the neutral information on cochlear implants,” said Tawnia. “There’s so much complex medical and technical information out there, and you’re under pressure to make a decision immediately, when in fact you’ve just found out your child is hard of hearing. She shared that she would love to share this [information] with new parents, or even extended family members who are also being introduced to cochlear implants.

Thanks to the feedback we received from CEID parents and staff, we were able to make improvements to the HealthWiki that make it more user-friendly, especially from a mobile device. Along the way we were inspired by the incredible work being carried out by this wonderful local organization. “One of the most rewarding parts of the beta-testing was working with the parents and caregivers of CEID. There was a passion for learning and desire to help their children. It was wonderful to see the connection they felt to the other parents of children with hearing problems,” said Tawnia. “It was exciting for me to get a glimpse of this supportive community, and to show them this useful tool.”

Hesperian has already begun reaching out to California service providers, educators, and families to let them know about the mobile-friendly version of Helping Children Who Are Deaf in the HealthWiki in four languages. Read the official press release for further information on our CCAF grant, and make sure to explore this resource and share the news with your friends and colleagues!