Hesperian helps us become self-reliant in health care

When I was going outside North America to work, one of my friends recommended the Hesperian Foundation resources to me. I hadn’t heard of them before, but she told me that they had published “Where There Is No Doctor”, and that it was an extremely useful resources for many people in areas where health care was limited.

When I checked out their website back then, I discovered that they had moved on far beyond that original publication, both in terms of books and languages. And that dedicated work has continued. In 2011, they changed their name to Hesperian Health Guides to better reflect what they do, and launched a digital resource centre to share information via the internet as part of a Digital Commons Initiative.


“This landmark digital platform enables global users to search, translate, customize and download our content,” it says. “Through this ongoing Initiative, we will evaluate and employ emerging digital technology to ensure that people everywhere have access to empowering health knowledge.”

Hesperian started in the 1970s in Ajoya, Mexico, where a group of volunteers and villages created a simple manual with medically accurate information that addressed community health needs in a culturally appropriate way. In 1973, the foundation published the manual as Donde No Hay Doctor, and then in 1977, published the English language version Where There Is No Doctor, now the most widely used health book in the world.

It is practical, illustrated and “covers a wide range of health issues from common illnesses to nutrition, the health of children to health and care of the elderly, and from family planning and childbirth to serious illnesses like tuberculosis…..Where There Is No Doctor equips readers to protect and care for their own health and that of their families and their communities, and helps identify which problems need the attention of an experienced health worker.” Hesperian publishes 20 titles, spanning community health, women’s health, children with disabilities, HIV, and environmental health, and distribute many others.

Hesperian is part of the People’s Health Movement, a network of individuals and organizations with a presence in over 60 countries around the world, which began in Bangladesh in December 2000, when delegates from around the world founded the People’s Health Movement and drafted the People’s Charter for Health to work towards achieving Health for All. (In 1978, at the Alma-Ata Conference, (PDF) health ministers from 134 countries, in association with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, pledged to achieve ‘Health for All by the Year 2000’ and dedicated themselves to implement Primary Health Care as the means to achieve it.) A Second People’s Health Assembly was held in Cuenca, Ecuador, in July 2005.

Early this year, Hesperian had an extremely useful blog post, entitled “Hoping for the best, preparing for the worst”, which offers useful advice:

“Given the worsening climate conditions of the years ahead, preparing for the worst does make sense. Obviously, central to that is organizing to turn back climate change. But it is also past time to create an emergency kit and emergency evacuation plan for when disaster strikes your household and your community. Hesperian materials are an excellent resource to include in any emergency kit.”

“Our Preparedness Set features 3 of our most requested books — Where There Is No Doctor, Where There Is No Dentist, and Where There Is No Animal Doctor. Packed with useful information to help you navigate common injuries and afflictions, these 3 books can help you care for those around you when help from the medical system is out of reach.”

Hesperian Health Guides 

Hesperian HealthWiki

The People’s Charter for Health