Towards Speech Interfaces for Health Information Access by Semi-literate Users
Community health programs in many developing countries are very similar: most involve semitrained, semi-educated health workers (often female), who provide health services in their own communities in a large hierarchically managed system across the country. In Pakistan, recent evaluations of the government's flagship community health program have revealed the need for improvement in health workers' knowledge, and recommended frequent refresher training courses. However, these have not been possible to implement primarily for reasons of cost. It is our conjecture that telephone-based adaptive speech interfaces, tailored to the specific information needs of health workers, are a viable alternative to current information access mechanisms such as handbooks and manuals. We will be designing, developing and testing such an interface (“HealthLine”) in the coming year in Pakistan. Initial results from discussions with health workers (using video prototypes) indicate that speech interfaces may potentially be much more useful for health workers than traditional media.