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Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Print version ISSN 0042-9686

Bull World Health Organ vol.80 n.4 Genebra Jan. 2002

http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0042-96862002000400014 

Acute respiratory infection — interactive tutorials, image collection

CD-ROM by Wellcome Trust Textual content and images by Tropical Medicine Resource. Price: institutions £120 / $195; individuals £30 / US$ 55 Further information at: www.cabi-publishing.org/cdrom/TIH/price.htm

A host of authors are here with their version of "Everything you always wanted to know about acute respiratory infection (ARI) and were afraid to ask". Interactive tutorials, though not explicitly humorous, will certainly make the task of learning a little more interesting. Judging by the technicality of the language, the target audience is primarily undergraduate and postgraduate medical students. ARI continues to kill millions of children all over the developing world, and medical students in the countries most concerned are usually given an exposure to the subject, which is, to put it mildly, inadequate. This set of tutorials and images is therefore a highly valuable and welcome resource.

Like a small flying saucer, the CD takes us on a detailed guided tour of the world of ARI. Starting with a brief overview of the major sections, it moves us through ten highly interactive tutorials, each composed and reviewed by a team of experts, renowned for their contribution to the field of ARI. Each tutorial is followed by a self-administered assessment. The topics of the tutorials are: etiology and risk factors, pathology, respiratory defenses, clinical features, diagnosis, case management, epidemiology, and prevention and control. The final tutorial provides detailed information on ARI programme management and surveillance.

The objective is to introduce students to the global significance of respiratory illnesses and then provide all the information they may need on any of its aspects. After drawing attention to a particular aspect of ARI, the authors review the options in a clear and straightforward way, and explore the relevant details. They focus on the peculiarities of childhood ARI, explaining why morbidity and mortality are higher in this age group. Promoting a rational approach to case management, they stress the need to recognize cases for which the use of antibiotics is appropriate and justified. They highlight the importance of preventive strategies and the various obstacles encountered in efforts to implement them.

Greatly helping the authors to make their points are visuals in the form of photographs, video clips and animations. The entire presentation is interesting, user-friendly and visually pleasing, so it should do the students good by cutting down their yawning rate and caffeine intake, in addition to achieving its desired objective of providing very useful information on ARI.

However, at the end of each chapter, where the authors administer a test to assess the students' depth of knowledge, they do not always meet their objectives. Especially in view of the degree of detail that has been provided, some of the questions cannot be answered properly in the space available. This does not give students a fair chance to assess their level of knowledge accurately. The slides, on the other hand, are designed in an interesting manner, and add a bit of fun to the test.

Considering the role and contribution of health workers in the management of ARI in developing countries, it is a pity that so many of them will not be able to benefit from this wonderful CD, because of the highly technical nature of its language. It would certainly be worth the effort to produce a second CD on ARI, designed for community health workers. It would involve simplifying the language of this one and putting in more visuals so that the less educated health workers, and as a result the entire community, can also benefit from this wealth of information on ARI.

Tabish Hazir1
1 Associate Professor of Paediatrics, Children's Hospital, Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, G-8/3, Islamabad, Pakistan (email: arichi99@hotmail.com).