Poverty and its resultant poor health are rampant in many urban and rural communities around the world. These conditions are exacerbated in Indigenous communities in particular, which are usually isolated from mainstream populations. It is a fact that women bear the heaviest burden in maintaining both family and community cohesion, well-being and health in these impoverished communities.
While the problem is global it can be mitigated by focusing on targeted areas where the need is greatest. Central America is one of those areas and we have initially chosen Guatemala, a country that has suffered many decades of war, has 53% of its population living below the poverty line, has a large indigenous population and is ranked 112 out of 135 countries in terms of gender inequality by the World Economic Forum in 2012.
Every year 10 million babies require help to breathe immediately after birth. Neonatal mortality statistics can give a certain view of a population's health. However, often unaccounted for is the Mayan population of the Western highlands where neonatal mortality rates possibly double that which represent the general Guatemalan population (3).
The most effective and sustainable way to improve health and well being in any population is to train and provide the necessary resources to a core group of receptive woman within the community who will then put their new skills into practice.
The majority of Mayan woman of San Juan de Laguna Guatemala give birth at home assisted by local midwives.
S.H.E.R. implemented a successful and sustainable program utilizing Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) and Helping Babies Survive (HBS) training sessions, integrating HBB/ HBS into a pre-existing midwife-training program in collaboration with local midwife community leaders.
S.H.E.R.’s work within this community required establishing mutual trust and will serve as a firm foundation to build upon for the future.
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