|Founder||Gary Selnow, Ph.D.|
|Type||501(3)(c) non-profit organization|
|Services||Providing health information to underserved communities of the world|
|Fields||Health Information, Global Health|
|Key people||Dr. Gary Selnow (Director) & WiRED Governing Board|
|Slogan||To address health knowledge inequality|
|Mission Statement||WIRED International is a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization that provides vital medical information and education to underserved communities in regions challenged by war, poverty and dislocation. WiRED’s Community Health Information Libraries offer medical and health information enabling physicians and nurses, community health workers and individuals in developing areas of the world to address the prevention and treatment of infectious and non-communicable disease. All WiRED’s resources—online and on portable media—are cost-free to users.|
WiRED International is a 501(c)(3)non-profit, volunteer-driven organization that has been delivering medical and health information to war-affected and underserved regions since 1997. WiRED International's goal is to address the severe global inequality of health knowledge.
WiRED International provides health information to underdeveloped areas by delivering programs, equipment and coordinated health education. Over the years, the organization has opened facilities in 15 countries, while NGOs, medical schools and hospitals in many additional countries have adopted its programs for community health education. The organization serves remote regions and, when appropriate, supplies laptops, projectors, solar equipment and complete health education libraries.
All WiRED International's resources online and on portable media are cost-free to users.
WiRED International's educational programs are technology-based. Starting in the 1990s, the organization stored programs on floppy disks and CD-ROMS and today relies on the Internet and flash drives. With this technology, people can put hundreds of training programs in their pockets, to take beyond the grid. These programs can be run on portable laptops and projectors for group presentations.
In 2009, the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health awarded WiRED International its Organizational Public Health Hero Award. WiRED earned the award “for its achievements in using information technology to provide up-to-date health education and medical information in developing, post-conflict, and isolated regions of the world.”
San Francisco State University professor, Gary Selnow, Ph.D., founded WiRED International in 1997 while on a Fulbright Fellowship as a visiting professor at the University of Zagreb in Croatia right after the Yugoslav War. Selnow said, “UNICEF had donated computers to a high school in Vukovar, Croatia, but they were sitting in boxes. We connected them to the Internet.”
Within two years, after formally registering as an NGO, WiRED International had established technology-based programs in six of the former Yugoslav countries. The U.S. Department of State engaged WiRED International's services in Bosnia and then in Kosovo, where the organization's volunteers set up community-access Internet centers to help people find family members who fled during the conflict with Serbia. Dr. Selnow noted that physicians made up “the largest group visiting the centers in Kosovo.”
As a small and flexible organization, WiRED International can respond quickly to community needs. While most of its work deals with health education, occasionally the organization comes across circumstances that merit special attention. One example took place in Kosovo in 1999, where a number of children had been unable to receive adequate treatment for life-threatening illnesses because of a war-damaged health care system.
Selnow was traveling by van from Prishtina (Priština), Kosovo, to Skopje, Macedonia, which, at the time, had the nearest operational airport. In the van was a five-year-old boy and a nurse. The nurse explained that Medecins Sans Frontieres was funding the boy's travel to France for heart surgery, but that budgets couldn't pay for his parents to go along. “Will you go with him?” Selnow asked. “No, I’ll drop him off and someone from the hospital will meet him at de Gaulle Airport.”
“So, this boy will undergo open-heart surgery without anyone to hold his hand and tell him in his Albanian language that he’ll be fine?” The nurse said, “That’s how it is, I’m sorry.”
Soon afterwards, WiRED International set up a program it called “Video Visit,” where a computer in Prishtina (Priština), where the parents remained, and a computer in the host country, where the children were being treated, could connect via the Internet. The connections allowed the parents and the children to speak on a regular basis and stay in touch during the children's often extended treatments. WiRED International's Video Visit wasn't set up in time for the boy in the van, but it operated for many other children set off in the months that followed.
WiRED International's mission became focused on medical and health education as a result of the clear needs evident in Kosovo. A year later, with a National Institutes of Health developmental grant, WiRED began HIV/AIDS education programs across Kenya and then in Sierra Leone. The work expanded to all medical and health concerns, and today through partnerships, WiRED programs are in several African countries and in parts of China, Central and South America, the Middle East, Melanesia and Eurasia.
In spring 2003 the State Department asked Selnow to travel to Baghdad with a representative of its U.S. Global Technology Corps to explore how WiRED could most effectively deliver medical training programs to Iraqi doctors. In June 2003, after reviewing field conditions and talking with U.S officials, Iraqi physicians and medical educators, WiRED launched the first technology-based medical training program in the country, starting with the opening of a facility in Iraq's Medical City Center. Within 18 months the organization had set up 39 centers around Iraq. Several years later WiRED launched the country's first telemedicine program. Technical problems with satellite availability in the war zone made that program difficult, and it never fully matured. WiRED's work in Iraq ended in 2010, as the U.S. commitment was winding down.
In 2011, as WiRED's ground programs expanded elsewhere, it began development of its own educational training materials. The program evolved, in 2013, into the Center for the Development and Distribution of Health Education Programs. This resource supplies medical and health education modules via the Internet and portable storage media. It allows partners or any interested NGO to store training modules on thumb drives and laptops and sync them to acquire updates. The result has been a broad distribution of health education programs, even in the most remote areas.
In 2014, WiRED has evolved into a health education hub operating in remote and resource-starved regions globally. WiRED collects intellectual content from physicians, nurses and medical educators from around the world. WiRED packages and translates it, when appropriate, and distributes it widely. This clearinghouse model has enabled many medical professionals to contribute to the program, and it has provided a source of health content for people in places isolated and often ignored.
WiRED International’s Center for the Development and Distribution of Health Information
In 2011, WiRED International launched a virtual Center which draws intellectual content and resources from regions of abundance, processes it for new audiences and distributes that information to regions of scarcity. This project is funded in large part by Medtronic Philanthropy.
The WiRED International e-library of more than 300 medical and health education modules enables physicians and nurses, patients, health workers and communities to address the prevention and treatment of both infectious and non-communicable disease in developing areas of the world. The more than 300 topics as diverse as maternal health and hand washing, rheumatic heart disease and Ebola, clean water strategies and home caregiver training.
In 2014 WiRED International expanded the global reach of its programs by creating a “Filling Station.” This is a tool that provides file synchronization (or syncing), whereby a person's computer can upload data from a master file in an automatic process that adds new or changed material. Thus, the Filling Station allows instant updating of the entire community health education (CHE) e-library from any Internet access point in the world.
With these interactive training programs, communities and medical professionals alike can educate themselves through the material released on this website and also distributed on portable media for communities off the grid.
These training modules are developed by WiRED International's team of physicians, medical editors, imagers and technicians along with a host of other medical experts. The team continually updates the existing material and creates new modules to provide a rich source of health information.
Rapid Response Modules
When a community health crisis occurs, WiRED International speeds the creation of a rapid response module and translates it into appropriate languages. Examples include:
- Ebola (translated into French)
- Severe Malnutrition (translated into Arabic)
- Polio (translated into Arabic and Armenian)
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