Prologue

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Abstract

Prologue is a health information system developed for underserved communities in Bihar, India. It is aimed at helping people living in poverty and with low literacy to take the right steps to manage their and their family’s health.

Bihar suffers from one of the worst healthcare records in the country. This is as much due to the lack of access to the right information as it is due to the economic condition of the region. The inaccessibility of information is aggravated by the complex social set up in these communities, for e.g. women aren’t allowed to leave their homes and community has the strongest influence on an individual’s decision making.

To make sure that right information permeates even to the most inaccessible user groups, especially women and to uplift community’s awareness as a whole, two different communication channels were designed-an interactive radio show and a public installation.

Inspiration and Method

The project involved a comprehensive secondary research looking into topics such as learning and communication methods of the illiterate population, habit formation and use of different modalities for communication. It was followed by an intense ethnographic study in Bihar for two weeks where there was a strong focus on understanding the user lifestyle, communication bottlenecks as well as socio-cultural barriers to it.

Early framework and ideas for this system were sketched out in collaboration with the local doctors, policy makers and field workers. The traditional local art forms and artefacts inspired the visual language for the ideas. Iterative testing with the target user group was imperative while sketching out symptoms and diseases. The core ideas were further narrowed down after a feasibility discussion with my collaborator on this project -World Health Partners. The ideas were built upon, refined further and prototyped at Umeå Institute of Design, Sweden.

Result

The final outcome of this project is an information system with two different accessibility channels-

Radio show is a personal channel specifically targeted towards women to have round the clock access to relevant health information from the comfort of their homes. It could be interacted with through any mobile phone or a landline by dialling a toll free phone number.

The Bioscope is an audio-visual public installation to engage community in gaining understanding of common health issues and their appropriate treatments in a playful manner.

On both the mediums information is delivered in form of a theatrical show, a conversation between a doctor and a patient’s relative. The audience have the ability to change their conversation at regular intervals to direct it towards the health problem that they would like to know more about.

Audience interact and curate the show through simple yes and no decision making for the options available to them, keeping the processing of information to the minimum.

The radio show is being piloted by World Health Partners at the moment (06/04) and if successful is going to impact 80 million people if not more.