Brian Julius, a native South African entrepreneur who now calls Hilton Head Island home, is on a mission to bring health education to low-literacy communities around the world.

“Speaking Books,” which feature colorful illustrations accompanied by simple spoken text in 27 different languages, are designed to get critical health information into communities where few people can read and where mass media and technology aren’t readily available.

“We can create all of these wonderful medicines, but that’s only half the job,” Julius told Bluffton Rotarians.  “For example, all sorts of health complications result when people can’t read label instructions.”

People with low health literacy are 12 to 18 times more likely not to understand, ignore or confuse medical treatment and preventative measures, Julius said, and so they’re at much higher risk.  Life expectancy is lowest among illiterate people, he added.

Each Speaking Book consists of 16 pages of colorful illustrations supported by straightforward and easy to understand text frequently read by a well-known local celebrity. For each page there is a corresponding push button that triggers a soundtrack of the text, so no matter the level of reading comprehension, the information can be understood.

The battery-powered Speaking Books are self-contained and user driven, Julius said, so the messages can be listened to in any order and as often as necessary.  They provide cost-effective means to present complex health care issues by adapting to cultures and needs of individual communities.


The Speaking Book has received numerous international awards for innovation and sustainability, including: Africom Pepfar Award for Creative Innovation, CPSI Public Sector Service Award, and the United Nations TIGA Award for Sustainable Innovation as well as endorsements by WMA, CDC, Johns Hopkins, USAID, the Global Fund, UNICEF, UNESCO and others. This innovative tool is supported by many national Health Departments and is being used by 5 of the world’s 10 largest pharmaceutical companies. Over 50 titles of the Speaking Book have been developed, with distribution throughout Africa, in China, India, South America and here in the USA

More recently, Speaking Books partnered with Rotary Clubs of Hilton Head and Pretoria South Africa, and the South African Depression Group to conduct school visits as part of a national teen suicide prevention campaign in South Africa. In addition, Speaking Books is now working with Rotary International in Pakistan and Nigeria as part of the End Polio Now campaign to educate on the life-saving benefits of immunization.

Julius is a successful innovator and entrepreneur with a business background across a wide range of industries in South Africa, the UK and the U.S. Julius and his wife, Zane, have lived on Hilton Head Island since 1999.