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ReelHealth: Storytelling with Mobile Video for Impact

By Guest Writer on June 1, 2011


You don’t have to be a professional filmmaker to tell a powerful story, and you don’t need bulky, expensive equipment. With 5 billion cell phone subscriptions worldwide, mobile technology is opening a doorway for citizen media makers anywhere in the world to become agents for change. That’s the opportunity proven by ReelHealth.

Mara Abrams wanted to demonstrate the power of the mobile phone as a simple, accessible, and wide-reaching storytelling tool for the developing world. The Touch Foundation, an NGO that builds Tanzania’s capacity to train community members as health workers, came to her team to produce videos that would champion their cause. Having never been to Tanzania, Mara felt she was in no position to tell the locals’ story for them – she wanted the very subjects of these videos, the local health workers who have defied all odds to serve their own people, to tell their own stories.

Knowing how busy students already were, and that they weren’t interested in becoming filmmakers or journalists professionally, it didn’t seem very practical to train them on professional-grade equipment. She thought about the simplest type of camera that would still yield high-quality videos, and mobile was the clearest answer. They gained sponsorship from the Tanzanian mobile operator Tigo, who provided support for the team and HD camera phones and service for each students. The result:

Mara says:

With only one doctor for every 30,000 people, Tanzania is facing a severe health crisis. I hope these videos reach as many people as possible, locally and globally, to educate them about the situation and help curtail preventable illnesses and death. More than that, Reel Health is a proof of concept for a broader, sustainable mobile reporting program I’m developing with The Tiziano Project.

With the anticipation that smartphones will get better and more affordable worldwide, I believe that mobile video can serve as a powerful advocacy tool for the poor, enabling local community members to educate one another (especially where literacy rates are low) and to provide the general population a window into their world.

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2 Comments to “ReelHealth: Storytelling with Mobile Video for Impact”

  1. Mara says:

    Thank you for this! The video above is one of ten…you can check out the others at http://www.reelhealth.org.

  2. alex96 says:

    Know how busy students who are not interested in becoming a professional filmmaker or a reporter, this does not seem very practical, and develop their professional-grade equipment. She thought of a simple type of camera will still produce high-quality video and mobile are the most clear answer.