Putting it into Practice: Building Local Capacity to Improve Maternal Health

Story bubbles on world map
Source: Ashoka

It has been a month since I arrived in Argentina. I am based in Pilar, a town at the northern border of the municipal boundaries of Argentina’s capital city, Buenos Aires and the Province of Buenos Aires. For the next nine months, I have been matched with Ashoka Fellow Alberto Vázquez who founded an NGO, SAHDES, which works in several of the rural communities outside Pilar. Their work focuses on training community-based health promoters, linking them with the local health system and other social systems, most often in collaboration with primary and secondary schools.

My work with SAHDES takes places in a community of about 2,000 people.  The local population has a long history in the community, with an increasing number of migrant farm laborers, primarily from Bolivia, working and living on segregated plantation farms, and other migrant laborers working at one of the many large plants in the neighboring industrial park.

Within this dynamic, we are working with a small, but committed group of women—some mothers, others not—who are being trained as community health workers.  They are currently three quarters of the way through their training and last week, I met with them last week to define and refine how they will apply what they have learned in their community. To help our thinking about our work with this group, I have been relying on a couple great reference manuals from the Hesperian Foundation, mainly “Where there is No Doctor –For Women” and “Aprendiendo a Promover la Salud”. They have been great resources to keep me on track and reinforce some of the directions that we are moving in together.

This first meeting was the beginning of part of my project to help structure the ‘putting into practice’ of what these soon-to-be health promoters have been learning over the past 3 months. We began by trying to define the focus issues, to which there were many answers and generated a lot of discussion in the process of clarifying topics and trying to group common themes.

What we ended up with is an ambitious list of topics to address in this diverse community, however, the most common concern that came up within the group was the lack of contraceptive use. They explained that many people have insufficient or wrong information leading to misuse, while other reasons included social pressures to have many children and uneven power dynamics within couples. It was impossible not to start thinking about the best ways to share and implement some of these ideas, however, thinking about the ways that different groups in the community learn and take-in information will be one of the topics for an upcoming session. My next session with them will focus on uncovering some of the root causes of some of the challenges in their community.

For those that are interested, this is final (working) list that we ended up with:






This blog post was contributed by Anna Dion, one of the fifteen Young Champions of Maternal Health chosen by Ashoka and the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth. She will be blogging about her experience every month, and you can learn more about her, the other Young Champions, and the program here.