Through surveys and interactions with our clients, we know health complications limit their potential, preventing them from building a better future for themselves and their families. Some of the most common health complications are preventable diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and cervical cancer. Misconceptions about healthcare and lack of access to culturally appropriate services result in high rates of these preventable diseases. The Health for Life program is designed to specifically counter the healthcare challenges that rural, indigenous women face in Guatemala.
What does it involve?
Health for Life provides health education and services to Friendship Bridge clients, in partnership with Wuqu’ Kawoq (Maya Health Alliance). Culturally sensitive services are provided via mobile clinics that travel to the villages where our clients live. Each clinic is staffed by female medical staff fluent in the indigenous languages our clients speak.
Health in Guatemala
Cervical cancer is the 2nd most common cancer among women in Guatemala, yet 78% of Mayan women aged 17-49 report never having had a Papanicolaou exam. Additionally, despite the fact that access to family planning is critical to women’s empowerment and has been proven as an effective poverty reduction tool , knowledge and utilization of family planning is limited in Guatemala. In a study among indigenous women in Guatemala, 64% of women reported they did not want to have children in the next two years, yet only 10% had access to birth control.
Clients earn access to the general health services package as a benefit of being a Friendship Bridge client. The Health for Life program started in our Sololá branch in 2015, and it will expand to one additional branch each year.
Health Misconceptions in Guatemala
- Birth control can cause cancer and/or permanent sterility
- Birth control pills can accumulate in your body leading to complications
- If you are single, divorced or widowed, you do not need a Papanicolaou exam.
- Diabetes is a death sentence
The general health services package includes:
- Papanicolaou Exam
- Cervical exam
- Breast exam
- Diabetes screening
- Hypertension screening
- Pregnancy test
- STI screening & treatment for pregnant women
- Family planning consult with a choice of methods: Depo Provera, Jadelle arm implant, birth control pills
Clients are able to purchase add-on packages as needed, including biopsies and treatment for hypertension and diabetes. Friendship Bridge provides a credit product to help clients with the purchase of these packages. If any clients are diagnosed with serious complications, Maya Health Alliance will absorb them into their Complex Care Program and guide them through the treatment process.