Canadian health practitioners will visit Guatemala for third maternal and child health knowledge exchange

The third team of Canadian health providers, experts and advocates participating in Horizons’ knowledge exchanges to Totonicapán, Guatemala will soon meet their Maya K’iche’ and Guatemalan counterparts, where they will learn about and share experiences in strengthening maternal, newborn and child health.

Workshops and meetings will be held between the Canadians and PIES de Occidente, traditional Indigenous midwives and Guatemalan Ministry of Health workers.

Workshops and meetings will be held between the Canadians and PIES de Occidente, traditional Indigenous midwives and Guatemalan Ministry of Health workers.

Over the course of ten days, eleven Canadians from a variety of professions will witness the challenging realities women and children in Totonicapán face. Totonicapán, a province in the Western Highlands of Guatemala with a predominantly Indigenous Maya K’iche’ population, holds one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country – when Guatemala already figures among the countries with the highest levels of maternal mortality in Central America.

The Canadians will also meet with Maya K’iche’ health practitioners like traditional Indigenous midwives, Indigenous community leaders, and Guatemalan Ministry of Health workers to learn about their valiant efforts to save the lives of women and children. These actors, through our local partner PIES de Occidente and the collaboration of the Totonicapán Health Directorate, play a crucial role in the four-year, $13.2 million Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) project, which is funded by the Government of Canada.

Coming from cities and towns across Ontario (Cobourg, Hamilton, Peterborough, Kingston, Temiskaming Shores, Ottawa), Manitoba (Brandon), British Columbia (Vancouver) and Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown), the Canadian team is made up of family physicians, midwives, nurses, health administrators, a paediatrician and a nutritionist.

Visits to health posts, health centres and the provincial Hospital will show how the MNCH project continues to provide life-saving equipment and supplies.

Visits to health posts, health centres and the provincial Hospital will show how the MNCH project continues to provide life-saving equipment and supplies.

Participants include:

Adrienne Bell-Smith

Clinical Program Manager of the Northumberland Family Health Team, overseeing interprofessional primary care staff and programs in Cobourg, Ontario with over 11 years in healthcare administration.

Dr. Kathy Bigsby

Paediatrician in Charlottetown, PEI with previous experience in obstetrics and prior medical brigade visits to Honduras, as well as some medical experience in Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Vietnam.

Chwen Binkley

Public Health Dietitian with the City of Hamilton, Ontario whose work portfolio involves nutrition education, food skills training and food literacy, with prior experience working with women in prenatal and postnatal programs.

Cindy Didych

Registered Nurse in Brandon, Manitoba who currently works in maternal-child nursing and assists with breastfeeding, promotion of skin-to-skin contact and teaching postpartum and newborn care to parents.

Kim English

Registered Nurse and Nursing Professor with the Trent/Fleming School of Nursing at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, whose research interests include nursing activism and nursing and midwifery practices in global, rural communities.

Grace Lévesque

Registered Midwife in Ottawa, Ontario with experience working in Puvirnituq, Nunavik with Inuit families and midwives as well as active roles within the Association of Ontario Midwives, the Ontario Midwifery Education Program and the College of Ontario Midwives.

Dr. Adam Newman

Family physician practicing primary care obstetrics and normal newborn care, as well as care for opioid dependent newborns at risk for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome in Kingston, Ontario.

Heer Pasha

Director of Finance at the Northumberland Hills Hospital in Cobourg, Ontario, bridging her experience in researching international care models and financial sustainability with her advocacy for equitable access to health services.

Dr. Erin Pepper

Family doctor in Cobourg, Ontario working in both hospital and community settings. Part of the labour & delivery team at the Northumberland Hills Hospital and medical director of the Northumberland Family Health Team, with an interest in breastfeeding support.

Dr. Gretchen Roedde

Family physician in Temiskaming Shores, northern Ontario, with deep engagement in Indigenous people’s health in North America as well as countries such as Laos, Bhutan and Bangladesh. Author of A Doctor’s Quest, a reflection on global MNCH, and Deep Water Dream, covering northern rural health care including Indigenous health and midwifery for cultural minorities.

Leah Seibert

Registered Midwife in clinical practice in Vancouver, British Columbia, with a clinical faculty appointment at the University of British Columbia’s Midwifery Program, along with instructor and facilitator roles with Perinatal Services BC and the Midwives Association of BC.

The Canadians will also accompany PIES staff, Ministry health workers and traditional Indigenous midwives on their day-to-day activities as they provide care for and share MNCH best practices in rural communities across Totonicapán.

The Canadians will also accompany PIES staff, Ministry health workers and traditional Indigenous midwives on their day-to-day activities as they provide care for and share MNCH best practices in rural communities across Totonicapán.

Mutual respect and understanding lie at the heart of these exchanges, which will help foster cooperation between Canada and Guatemala while placing social justice issues front and centre. Horizons is honoured to work with PIES de Occidente and the Totonicapán Health Directorate in creating meaningful and respectful opportunities for two-way learning.

Make sure to visit our blog, Facebook page and Instagram in the coming days to share in the stories of strength and resilience as told by PIES, the Totonicapán Health Directorate and Indigenous Maya K’iche’ women, leaders and families to the Canadian participants.

For more information or to get involved, please contact Raúl Scorza at rscorza@horizons.ca.

Raul Scorza