Maternal Health: Early Teenage Pregnancy

The X’beil li Kawilal means “path to health” in the Q’eqchi’ language. The program focuses on adolescent and young women in indigenous rural communities in the department of Alta Verapaz in Guatemala. The program now reaches roughly 6000 young women in over 200 rural communities.

In each community by two female leaders are selected by the community then trained in health prevention and promotion, group management techniques and leadership. These leaders receive remote support from TulaSalud via audio-conferences, face-to-face community sessions, and training workshops for leaders. The program is run in partnership with the local health care providers: the DASAV (The Ministry of Health in Alta Verapaz) and local NGOs.

One of the key objectives of the program is to discourage early pregnancies, which is a significant problem in rural Guatemala, highlighted in a recent photo essay by Stephanie Sinclair in the New York Times Magazine. The Times article focuses on Q’eqchi’ communities in El Petén, the department immediately to the north of Alta Verapaz, where TulaSalud has also worked extensively.

Guatevision did a news story (in Spanish) on the TulaSalud program and its objectives. Friends of our program will notice many familiar faces, including Drs. Chen and Díaz.

For a young teenager, pregnancy almost always closes the door on education and opportunity. It also presents a significantly elevated risk of medical complication, which contributes to Guatemala’s very high rates of maternal and infant mortality.

Photo by Stephanie Sinclair

Photo by Stephanie Sinclair

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