Kvinnor bär krukor med vatten som de hämtat i Atitlan-sjön, i Guatemala.

To improve confidence in health-care services, a decision has been made to take traditional methods into account.

Photo: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Scanpix

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Better health-care chain improves health of women and children

Updated: 1 July 2014

In Guatemala’s poorest district, people have often had to make do without any access to medical care. However, newly trained staff and better organized health-care facility chains have changed this.

There are several links in Guatemala’s health-care chains. Chains begin in the most far-flung rural villages, where small groups of inhabitants are trained to recognize some acute symptoms, such as the most common pregnancy complications.

The pregnant woman can then quickly get to one of the health-care stations that have been built near the area. Nurses and doctors who have been trained within the programme are present at these stations. If they assess that the woman needs more specialized care, they can now organize transport to the closest hospital.

This improved health-care chain has brought results in a short time. Between 2006 and 2007 alone, the number of childbirths that took place at some form of health-care facility rose by 20 per cent in the five districts. And almost all children are now vaccinated against measles and rubella.

Taking local traditions into account

Indigenous people have their own traditions regarding health care. For example, childbirth is surrounded by various rituals. To improve confidence in health-care services, a decision has been made to take traditional methods into account; for example, a woman who is about to give birth can take a traditional midwife to the hospital.

Karin Westerberg, health co-ordinator at Sida, says: “We’ve been driving this project since 2003 together with the local and national authorities and the Pan American Health Organization (OPS), which is the World Health Organization’s representatives in Guatemala. The work has been organized so that it involves the local population. The co-operation between municipalities, local interest groups and development assistance organizations has improved.”

Inspiration to the rest of the country

The project has included five districts in the north and north western parts of the country, where the majority of the population have indigenous backgrounds. The health-care authorities have adopted several components and experience and introduced these at the national level. For example, they have expanded the vaccination programme for children.

Despite the progress, there is still much to do. The starting point is a very low level and some areas have no access to care whatsoever.

“This project will end in 2009,” Westerberg says. “In future ventures, the ambition is to co-operate more directly with the government to improve its chances of developing the national health-care system.”


Page owner: Department for Europe and Latin America

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