The Astana Declaration (9) Multilingualism and Access to knowledge (3)

30 October, 2018

Dear Carmen and Najeeb,

Your points are very valid and timely. In many comments (on this forum) around the declaration we see calls for sharing knowledge with health workers in languages they understand, but the information they need is a) often drowned and hard to find in an oversupply of online information and b) not always available in a language they understand.

Frontline health workers don't need evidence-based scientific studies, but constructive advice when it counts, typically textbooks and tutorial videos.


Translating a 600-page textbook costs money and since these are frequently offered free of charge, I see crowdsourcing as a viable alternative. If several volunteers would translate small chunks or individual chapters of a book, the know-how thus shared could produce miracles. All we need is an organization (perhaps HIFA) that could coordinate and bring authors and volunteers together.

Tutorial videos:

They are one of the best means for sharing know-how with health workers and to allow them to acquire new skills to enable them to intervene when there is no higher qualified professional person available. In emergency situations this could even save lives.

Such tutorials are generally very short (30" to 5') and the voice-over is usually all that needs translation. They contain just a few words (some even less than 100). Another case for crowdsourcing.

A low-cost solution would be to add separate text prompts in other languages. These are text lists that scroll in sync with the action and are displayed on the side of a streamed or locally stored movie. Thy are easy to produce, cost a lot less than new shootings per language and other post-production methods and can be added whenever they are ready. The technology exists already.

Best regards,

john m.

HIFA profile: John Miescher works with BizGraphic in Switzerland. miescher AT