Management Sciences for Health to Strengthen Pregnancy Care for Underserved Indigenous Women in Guatemala

March 04, 2019

Management Sciences for Health to Strengthen Pregnancy Care for Underserved Indigenous Women in Guatemala

Project builds on the organization’s pioneering work in Uganda and Kenya

Arlington, VA—March 4, 2019—Management Sciences for Health (MSH) announced today that it will introduce its successful pregnancy care model to indigenous women in the western highlands of Guatemala, a region characterized by poverty, high fertility rates, and substandard access to health services.

“I am pleased that MSH will have the opportunity to adapt our successful antenatal care model for women in communities with some of the highest rates of maternal mortality in Guatemala,” said Dana Sandstrom Keating, MSH’s Head of Business Development and Partnerships. “We are excited to broaden the reach of what we’ve come to affectionately call ‘pregnancy clubs’ to improve the health and well-being of more women and their babies.”

High-quality antenatal care (ANC) is critical for maternal and newborn survival and well-being. Through regular ANC visits, health providers can prevent, identify, and treat life-threatening conditions; prepare women for pregnancy and childbirth; and encourage more consistent use of professional, facility-based health services.

The two-year project will implement a group ANC model centered on the needs of indigenous women and health providers in Guatemala’s Quetzaltenango department. This model convenes groups of women at similar stages of pregnancy and provides a safe space where they can receive essential health information, share experiences, and build bonds with one another and the health provider. The project works with traditional midwives, who are well respected in the community, to incorporate culturally relevant birth practices and encourage women’s acceptance of ANC services at health facilities. It also engages health providers to carry out evidence-based clinical practices in accordance with Guatemala’s national standards for maternal and neonatal health.

In the Quetzaltenango department, 60% of the population is indigenous and more than half live in rural areas. Maternal mortality is estimated at 99 deaths per 100,000 live births, higher than Guatemala’s national average of 88 deaths. Half of these occur among adolescents and 30% among first-time mothers. Pregnant women in Quetzaltenango department do not always use the formal health system for fear of being disrespected.

Beginning in 2016 and in collaboration with Scope—a social impact company specializing in human-centered, innovative solutions to health problems in low-resource settings—MSH began testing the group ANC model in eastern Uganda; in 2017, it adapted that model to western Kenya.

The project in Guatemala is possible thanks to the generosity of Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies. For more information, visit here.