Anthropologist Paul H. Mason and illustrator Amelia Darmawan have launched the Fight Tuberculosis in Vietnam crowd-funding project on Pozible. Please read his post below to find out why and how Croakey readers can help.
Most cases of tuberculosis can be cured. Antibiotics have been available to treat this disease since the 1950s. But sadly tuberculosis outranks HIV as the biggest infectious killer worldwide. Why do so many people still die from a disease that is curable? Clearly, more than tablets and injections are needed.
Ninety-five per cent of people who become sick with tuberculosis are living in the developing world. Not everyone knows what tuberculosis is, that it can be treated, and how that treatment can be accessed. Completing treatment is important for the health of a tuberculosis patient and also stops the transmission of this infectious disease.
I am an anthropologist. I have worked in several developing countries with a high burden of tuberculosis. Currently I work in Vietnam. Frustrated by the persistence of tuberculosis, I decided to put together an educational tool that would reach the maximum number of people. My idea was to write a children’s book that would teach children and their families about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis.
Through the eyes of a child, kids learn the symptoms of tuberculosis, the important message that it is curable with medication and, vitally, that they can support a friend from sickness back to health. The text is accompanied by bright, vibrant illustrations drawn by Sydney-based Indonesian artist Amelia Darmawan.
The message is simple, positive and, most importantly, we know it gets through. My colleagues and I trialled the book with 100 school children in Cà Mau, the southernmost province of Vietnam. On a quiz with ten comprehension questions about the content of the book, no students got more than two questions wrong. In fact, 50 per cent of students got every answer correct. This is a great indication that this little 15-page book is a powerful learning tool.
With such a great result, my colleagues and I are understandably eager to get this book into the hands of children who so desperately need to hear its message. The Woolcock Institute, with whom I work, has several tuberculosis research projects running in Vietnam, and this is the first place we intend to distribute the book.
We have a tuberculosis screening team in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta who are ready and waiting to distribute the book to people in 120 villages. All we need now is sponsorship to publish as many copies of the book as we can. Lacking sponsorship for this humanitarian project, we have decided to turn to online crowdfunding. It’s the first time we’re trying this way of raising money and we are asking people to donate, tweet, facebook and, dare I say it, even googleplus this project.
Please visit our pozible crowdfunding campaign and share the word.
Dr Paul H. Mason is a medical anthropologist and Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research. He tweets at @sociocerebral. See the article he co-wrote recently for Croakey: Call to action: “The culture of using antibiotics as placebo must stop”