Does Translated Health-Related Information Lead to Higher Comprehension? A Study of Rural and Urban Kenyans


Translators without Borders Releases Impact Study on Ebola Information

DANBURY, CT, USA – 23rd July 2015 — Translators without Borders (TWB), the US-based charity that uses language to increase access to knowledge, has today released the findings and results of the Impact Study on Ebola Information, Does Translated Health-Related Information Lead to Higher Comprehension? A Study of Rural and Urban Kenyans. The results of this study demonstrate just how important it is to have crucial healthcare information widely available in the local language.

The Impact Study on Ebola Information was commissioned as part of TWB’s Words of Relief crisis program in Kenya. TWB’s Words of Relief is the first translation crisis relief network intended to improve communications with communities when crisis response aid workers and affected populations do not speak the same language. Words of Relief is supported by the Humanitarian Innovation Fund, a program managed by ELRHA (Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance). The objective of the study was designed to examine the level of comprehension of health-related information when presented in English and then the same information provided in Swahili.

197 Kenyans in urban and rural areas who spoke Swahili plus some English, were surveyed on what they knew about Ebola. Participants were asked questions about language competence and preferences and some pre-task questions on their knowledge of Ebola – only eight per cent of participants answered basic questions on the disease correctly. Participants were then given an English-language information poster on Ebola prevention and symptoms and the correct answers to questions rose to 16 percent. But when given this same poster in Swahili, respondents got 92 percent of the questions correct. The information was in the form of a simple poster created and translated by TWB and used throughout West Africa after the disease had fully taken root.

“The results of the Impact Study on Ebola Information demonstrates just how important it is to provide crucial healthcare information in the local language and in the right format,” said Grace Tang, Global Coordinator, TWB’s Words of Relief program. “We will use the results of the survey to continue to raise awareness to aid organizations that language matters and true comprehension should be considered in all development and crisis programs.”

Summary of Key Findings:

• 16 percent answered correctly when shown Ebola information in English • 92 percent answered correctly when shown Ebola information in Swahili • 82 percent of participants would prefer to receive health-related information in spoken format. • Apart from information leaflets, public gatherings, church and radio were listed as preferred modes of communication for health-related information. • Prior knowledge of Ebola was low among participants, regardless of age, gender, or abode. • Reading of the English poster did not lead to any increased comprehension of Ebola. • Reading of the Swahili poster led to a significant increase in comprehension of Ebola.

Translators without Borders has produced an infographic, showing the key findings from the study. To view the infographic in pdf format,click here. If you would like to see the full findings and results of the Impact Study, click here to view pdf.

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About Translators without Borders

Translators without Borders envisions a world where knowledge knows no language barriers. The US-based nonprofit provides people access to vital knowledge in their language by connecting nonprofit organizations with a professional community of volunteer translators, building local language translation capacity, and raising awareness of language barriers. Originally founded in 1994 in France as Traducteurs sans Frontières (now its sister organization), Translators without Borders translates more than eight million words per year. In 2012, the organization established a Healthcare Translators’ Training Center in Nairobi, Kenya. For more information and to volunteer or donate, please visit: or follow on Twitter at