Eliana Elias

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1999


This profile was prepared when Eliana Elias was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1999.
The New Idea
Eliana has conceived a systematic and coordinated approach to improving the quality and accessibility of public health information for poor residents of isolated regions in Peru. Her innovative model includes materials to communicate health services, instruments to transmit knowledge of health issues in simple terms, work with national government agencies to incorporate policies for effective communication strategies into health campaigns and policies, and training for health care providers to respond to local concerns. Many poor people in the developing world die needlessly during epidemics and medical emergencies because they do not understand how to apply the measures that could prevent or cure their afflictions. Eliana has identified a need which is fundamental but often overlooked in development programs--communications strategies and techniques for use with poor indigenous groups, and poor women in particular, to make sure that information gets adequately transmitted to beneficiary populations and achieves the desired impact. She is developing a program of her own to promote effective communications in development, focusing on health programs, with strategies aimed at both public policymakers and grassroots communities.
Eliana has identified four strategic points of intervention for improving the provision of public health information: upper echelons of the Ministry of Health and national policymakers, educators and trainers in medical and nursing schools, health care providers (both official and traditional) in rural areas, and the population itself. She has designed a series of initiatives for education and influencing policy with each of these groups, with a view to revolutionizing the dissemination of public health information by teaching them how to communicate in language and concepts that are accessible to the target population. Unlike many other health projects which separate themselves completely from state structures, Eliana's project coordinates with national ministries and takes advantage of available resources. She sees herself as a pivot in the creation of coalitions between the people and national agencies. She is not only promoting training in techniques for effective communication in health, but also working to institutionalize the idea in national policies.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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