Martha Heredia

Ashoka Fellow
Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Fellow Since 1990


This profile was prepared when Martha Heredia was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1990.
The New Idea
Most of Mexico's 600,000 spinal cord injury victims do not receive the medical, rehabilitative, and reintegrative–let alone the psychological help these grievously hurt people need. When their lives (and those of their families) suddenly suffer long-term and dramatic damage, typically after an accident, Mexico has virtually no specialist capacity to help.

Marta proposes to remedy this situation by demonstrating new economic ways of providing the substantial, sustained help these people need. Recognizing that there will never be enough trained medical, psychological, and therapist professionals that current care models would require to treat so many victims, even if the vast amounts of money necessary to pay them all could be found, she's looking to other resources. These are chiefly: (a) the victims' families and (b) a new class of paraprofessionals she proposes to recruit from the roughly one-third of recovering victims with the necessary temperament.

Thus, training former patients to be therapists helps them recover. Moreover, Marta feels they are the most qualified people to understand and attend to the emotional needs of those struck down by this trauma, for they too have lived through it.

Marta's first base will be a simple clinic. Around this center, she'll weave a mix of medical curative care, physiotherapy, and psychological and emotional help. She hopes to demonstrate that such integrated help, offered to the victim and his or her family promptly, (a) works and (b) can be affordable.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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