“Up until the day her labor pains started, she expected her grandmother to show up stork-like with the baby in her arms–and it was quite a surprise when, between contractions, her older sister told her what she would have to do instead.”
Most rural indigenous women have very little exposure to basic health education and have no forum in which they can comfortably and safely have their questions about sexual health and family planning addressed. Our staff of health educators and physicians has created a women’s health program that includes health education, free access to cancer screenings and family planning methods; and a complete range of primary care services.
At the core of all of our programs is a partnership with the community, rooted in the most basic of elements: language. The majority of the rural poor in Guatemala do not speak Spanish as their first language. Our entire medical staff – from Harvard medical students to indigenous health educators – is fluent in the Mayan language of each community. Virtually unheard of in Guatemalan healthcare development, this means that the women in the program can communicate in their own language about topics such as the human body,menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, specific cancers for women, sexually transmitted infections, family planning and domestic violence.
Over 500 women will attend these classes in 2015. What’s more, each participant has full access to our other health services, including cervical cancer screening. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer among women of reproductive age in Guatemala and leads to the death of many young women, often in their 30s and 40s. Pap smears have been an effective screening test in many countries, significantly lowering the rate of deaths due to cervical cancer.As part of our comprehensive women’s health programming, we offer pap smear clinics on a monthly basis. We also provide complete follow up for our patients if they need further exams, treatments, or surgeries.
In addition to education and cancer screenings, all women in our program have access to our broad range of primary healthcare services. Our organization has expertise in the care of complex surgical and cancer cases, chronic disease and maternal/child health. Unlike organizations that provide one service and then move on to the next community, we are committed partners who know our patients each by name and will be there for any medical need that arises.
Cost of Program: Our estimated annual cost of this program is $50,000, or around $50 per woman per year for education classes and a pap smear.