Maya women in Guatemala are 10 times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth than women in the US, in part because of the barriers and discrimination they face in the public health system. Our Mobile Health Program provides trusted midwives with training and smartphone technology, along with 24/7 access to medical staff, so they can detect problems early and get mothers more advanced care when necessary, saving mothers' and babies' lives.
Guatemala's indigenous Maya population has one of the highest perinatal and maternal mortality rates in Latin America. These disparities are largely the result of barriers that Maya women face to hospital-level care before and during childbirth, such as language, cost, and discrimination, including pressure to undergo sterilization. Due to these factors, most Maya women in rural Guatemala deliver at home with midwives and do not have ready access to hospital care when they need it.
Our Mobile Health program equips and trains traditional Maya midwives to use smartphone technology to monitor mothers' and babies' health in the home. This helps reduce maternal deaths and complications by identifying and addressing problems early. It also enables women to safely give birth at home whenever possible. When mothers need hospital-level care, our care navigators, who speak their Mayan languages, accompany them throughout, providing translation and other support.
The Mobile Health Program currently serves about 700 women a year and we hope to expand. In the communities we serve, the number of maternal deaths has declined from eight in 2016 to zero in 2018-2020. We treat and refer about 200 women a year for complications, preventing deaths and other adverse outcomes. In the first half of 2020 alone, our care navigators reported 20 cases of maternal abuse by hospital providers to the Ministry of Health, helping to identify and reduce discrimination.