WiRED International Connects Underserved Communities to Health Education

By Sameer Verma, Ph.D. Professor, San Francisco State University and Board Member, WiRED International, with Allison Kozicharow, Board Member, WiRED International
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“I met Professor Gary Selnow at San Francisco State University over 18 years ago. I met him almost as soon as I joined the faculty. I worked with him on projects that were sending computers with health-based information to places with no access to the Internet. That was my initial introduction to WiRED International. Over time, I became more interested in “offline access” and technologies designed to enable work, when not connected to the Internet. My experiences with the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project equipped me with specific knowledge of current challenges around the world – of the 7.6 billion people making up the Earth’s population, only around half have access to Internet services. This is a staggering proportion!
Combining the prospects of general education with access to health information around the world makes vital services more accessible and comprehensive. To this end, I am proud to have worked with WiRED International, and currently serve as a Board Member.” – Sameer Verma
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WiRED International is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization that provides free computer-based medical and health education to underserved communities around the world. 

Gary Selnow, Ph.D., a San Francisco State University professor, founded WiRED in 1997 while on a Fulbright Fellowship as a visiting professor at the University of Zagreb, Croatia, soon after the war ended between Serbia and Croatia. His university work took him to Vukovar, a town devastated during that war.

According to Dr. Selnow, “When I saw how the technology we brought to Vukovar made a difference in the lives of isolated people, I thought we might form an organization to extend the idea of technology-based education in low-resource regions. In 1999, our work in Kosovo brought us to focus our efforts on medicine and health training. We couldn’t have known it in these early years, but over the next two decades, as WiRED took shape and built programs in underserved regions, we would engage with millions of people isolated by war, poverty, politics and geography.”

Today WiRED, now a global presence across continents, brings medical and health education to underserved communities. WiRED fine tunes cutting-edge technology to develop training programs that have led to:

  • Bringing WiRED’s e-library to remote Amazon villages and supplying the technology to operate community heath training programs. WiRED also provides portable, electronic medical records systems in the Peruvian Amazon.
  • Producing a Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) Training Series for students, teachers and caregivers and a complete 10-part training series on the echocardiographic diagnosis of RHD for nurses and general practitioners in low-resource regions.
  • Bringing WiRED’s health training programs in Spanish and Portuguese to medical students and community health workers in Central and South America.
  • Using computers to train health workers, students and community members in Kenya on diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and Chikungunya. 
  • Distributing a comprehensive, 24-part educational series on mother and child health. It examines family planning, health during pregnancy, delivery and child care up to five years of age. 
  • Supplying an interactive education program preparing communities to manage infectious disease outbreaks.   

WiRED’s online Health Learning Center contains more than 400 interactive modules — free to all. This e-library of peer-reviewed medical and health training courses enables physicians and nurses, patients, community health workers and people in low-resource areas to address the prevention and treatment of infectious and non-communicable disease worldwide, especially in developing areas. WiRED has translated nearly one hundred modules into Spanish, French, Mandarin, Portuguese, Arabic, Armenian, and other languages.

Educating a sufficient number of people about healthy practices and on signs, symptoms, diagnoses and treatments of common illnesses can help to elevate the health of an entire community. This is akin to the concept of ‘community immunity’, and is recognised in vaccination programs. WiRED believes that providing peer-reviewed, and evidence-based educational training tools will enable community members to take responsibility for, and contribute to their own health. 

With these interactive training tools, general audiences and medical professionals alike can educate themselves through the material available online and for download. Upwards of eighty five percent of people in WiRED’s target populations have occasional Internet access at best. WiRED has developed an application that enables anyone to download and maintain their own health library of modules. This means that community health workers and others can take entire health training courses into remote regions and harder to reach populace.

Saving lives during a community epidemic is a heroic mission. Preparing communities through education is a quiet, but life-saving mission, which can head off health problems and yield lifetime benefits. WiRED’s purpose is to use frontline technology to bring vital medical and health education, completely free of charge, to overlooked and isolated communities around the world.

You can follow WiRED on Twitter and Facebook.

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