to reliable health information for health workers in developing
countries is potentially the single most cost effective and achievable
strategy for sustainable improvement in health care."
Community health workers in developing countries are often trained only for a few months before they begin providing health services, and have a great need to access updated and reliable health information. In the HealthLine project, we're designing an information access system specifically for such health workers, which they can call any time, toll-free, from any cell phone or landline. Through a spoken conversation with the system in their native language, they would be able to learn more and/or fill in any health information gaps that they may have. This would in turn enable them to provide better health services to their community.
HealthLine is a collaborative research project involving Carnegie Mellon University (
HealthLine is supported by:
As of January 2009, we have completed a large user
study with health workers in rural Sindh comparing
two automated information access systems in the Sindhi language. In one system,
health workers would use the telephone keypad to select menu choices, while in
the other they would speak instead. Most users preferred the spoken interface,
though there are still significant challenges for the least literate users.
Such users had significant difficulty using either system, and we are now
looking into ways of streamlining the interaction based on their needs.
As of May 2008, we have completed a series of user
studies with health workers in rural Sindh to
understand their preferences with respect to speech-based information access as
compared to text-based information access. One major finding is that our
initial choice of Urdu (
As of September 2007, we have completed a series of
field-based interviews with various health workers to understand the context in
which they work, their literacy and comprehension skills, as well as their
baseline health information needs. We have identified appropriate health
information texts, and have completed a successful prototype test in August. We
are now creating a system with more information, utilizing voice-based search,
and will be evaluating it with a wide range of community health workers, with
varying literacy levels.
This video gives a detailed overview of HealthLine's goals and methodology.
This video is meant as a tool to be used in focus group meetings with community health workers, to elicit their needs, opinions and suggestions on the project.
These concept demonstrations show three different interaction styles that could potentially be useful for health workers. They are only meant to give a flavor of what is possible with speech technologies.
Health & Nutrition Development Society
Jahanzeb Sherwani, Nosheen Ali, Carolyn Rose, Roni Rosenfeld. Orality-Grounded HCID: Understanding the Oral User. To appear in Information Technologies & International Development, Special Issue on Human Computer Interaction and Development, December 2009.
Jahanzeb Sherwani, Sooraj Palijo, Sarwat Mirza, Tanveer Ahmed, Nosheen Ali, Roni Rosenfeld. Speech vs. Touch-tone: Telephony Interfaces for Information Access by Low Literate Users. In Proc. Information & Communications Technologies and Development, Doha, Qatar, April 2009.
Sherwani, Nosheen Ali, Sarwat Mirza,
Anjum Fatma, Yousuf Memon, Mehtab
Karim, Rahul Tongia, Roni Rosenfeld. HealthLine: Speech-based
Access to Health Information by Low-literate Users. In Proc. IEEE/ACM Int'l Conference on
Information and Communication Technologies and Development,
Sherwani, Nosheen Ali, Rahul Tongia, Roni Rosenfeld, Yousuf
Memon, Mehtab Karim, Gregory Pappas. HealthLine: Towards
Speech-based Access to Health Information by Semi-literate Users. In Proc. Speech in Mobile and
Sherwani, Dong Yu, Tim Paek, Mary Czerwinski, Yun-Chen Ju, Alex Acero. VoicePedia:
Towards Speech-based Access to Unstructured Information. In Proc. Interspeech,
Sherwani, Rahul Tongia, Roni Rosenfeld, Yousuf Memon, Mehtab Karim,
Gregory Pappas. Towards Speech Interfaces for Health Information Access by
Semi-literate Users. In Proc. AI in ICT for Development,