If you want to get Nicholas Kristof wound up like a clock (and who doesn’t? he writes so brilliantly when he’s on fire about a cause), bring up global rates of maternal mortality. Around the world, a woman dies in childbirth every minute – yet the way to save the lives of mothers and babies is not a mystery. As Kristof writes, “We know what to do, we just need to do it better.”
I’ve been on a roll with this topic all week, and I’m continuing today with another Ashoka Young Champions of Maternal Health (see my first story on 11/17). This program is incubating the next generation of leaders in maternal health by sending 15 young innovators from around the globe abroad for nine months, to work with an Ashoka Fellow who can focus and refine their new ideas, energy and passion on an issue where innovation is sorely needed.
Maria Laura Casalegno, a Young Champion from Argentina, has a plan to bring mobile health clinics to women in the remote areas of her country and provide early pregnancy screening and ob/gyn consultations. By building teams of health agents trained in providing women with prenatal and postnatal care, she is intent upon reducing risk factors that affect the normal evolution of pregnancy.
Maria is being mentored by 2003 Ashoka Fellow Haywood Hall in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico whose organization PACEMD develops leadership and skills for emergency medicine in countries where it is relatively unknown – linking doctors, technicians and public health officials in the United States with those in Latin America for training, exchange and course development. Part of Hall’s PACEMD program is Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics and Basic Life Support in Obstetrics, courses that develop and certify obstetricians, nurses, EMT/paramedics and midwives in emergency childbirth procedures – and there Maria will be honing her public health skills.
She’ll develop collaborative models to implement the ALSO program in rural areas throughout Mexico, learn health delivery strategy, and facilitate communications between instructors, faculty, students, doctors, midwives and local communities – fabulous training for when she starts her own network of mobile clinics in Argentina!
Maria passionately believes that health care is a right for everyone – and she couldn’t have a better teacher than Haywood Hall. The son of a civil rights activist mother and African-American father, Hall was born in Mexico, raised in Detroit, then dropped out of high school to become a musician, meter reader and cab driver, became a medical student, public health advocate, emergency room doctor, administrator, and finally moved back to Mexico to found PACEMD where his passion to develop emergency medicine throughout Latin America is bringing life-saving methodologies to women in childbirth and communities at large.
The idea that Maria from Argentina is working alongside African-American Dr. Hall in Mexico learning to save women’s lives in childbirth throughout Latin America really does my heart good. My $100 today goes to Ashoka for sponsoring this kind of global work invested in social change, and supporting social entrepreneurs who will make it happen. Young Champions today – safer moms tomorrow!
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