Young Champions of Maternal Health
Anna Dion (Canada) with Ashoka Fellow Alberto Vázquez (Argentina)
Anna Dion's Blog
- Putting it into Practice: Building Local Capacity to Improve Maternal Health
- Out of My Comfort Zone
- Avoiding Averages
- Building Bridges
- Building on Uncertain Ground
- In Transition
- On My Own...
- Discovering the Path
- Itchy Feet
In 2009, Anna began volunteering as a companion to low-income and often refugee pregnant women. She was immediately struck by a staggering realization: despite Canada's national commitment to universal access to healthcare, low-income women were often unable to access appropriate healthcare during pregnancy. Anna is addressing this challenge by building and training a critical mass of volunteer companions to support disadvantaged women through their reproductive health decisions. They provide physical and emotional support as well as resources and companionship to other women as they navigate the health and social services systems of Canada. Anna's program attempts to place women back in control of their choices by providing a safe space for discussion, questioning, and decision-making.
Alberto Vázquez is providing quality medical care to thousands in Argentina by putting local primary care centers, traditionally underused and undervalued, at the forefront of community health care and disease prevention efforts. Alberto's model builds upon the Primary Attention Center's role by training local people to serve as health promoters. He ensures that the community's specific health concerns are addressed locally and motivates medical professionals at those centers long-considered to be outposts of health service. In the process, the role of the general practitioner is revived as patients get more personal attention and physicians refocus on preventative care.
Alberto and Anna will work together to improve maternal health by creating a community center for women and children in Pilar, a rural area of Argentina about 60 km north of Buenos Aries. About 4,100 people live in Pilar, 30% of whom are Bolivian citizens and the majority of whom work on plantations, speak native languages, and do not have legal residence status. The planned center will serve as a delivery point for public health programming and a connector between health facilities and the local population. These community spaces will disperse information on proper pregnancy procedures and ensure complete knowledge and adequate supervision of pregnant women in order to detect potential health complications.
During the Young Champions program Anna Dion will be responsible for developing a cohesive plan to ensure frequent communication and continued support between community groups and health institutions. Anna will also help facilitate group discussions amongst community women, coordinate community center activities, conduct interviews, research methods to improve organizational strategy, and engage with local stakeholders to build and replicate the model.