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Supporting Senegalese Midwives and Birth Attendants – a lesson from the African Midwives Collective

“Midwives provide amazing services to our communities. Aside from assisting with births, they’re a great resource for reproductive health, family planning, and STD information. They are well connected with communities, and distribute critical health information.” – Kaya Skye, African Birth Collective 

A Senegalese midwife performing a prenatal checkup.

When Kaya Skye moved to the northern Mboro region of Senegal in 1996 to research topics in medical anthropology, she found herself fascinated by the state of maternal health. She observed that healthcare workers were being pushed to adopt western birthing practices, but the government- sponsored training was not explaining the rationale for certain actions. For example, health workers were taught how to take blood pressure, but not why it’s important or how high blood pressure could affect a pregnant woman. “But these women are incredibly intelligent and capable of understanding and doing so much more,” says Kaya. She also noticed that along with the westernization of birth care, the more natural approach that had underpinned the work of local midwives for centuries was being lost. Now, instead of natural births, midwives have “rushed births by overusing drugs such as Pitocin,” said Kaya, “which has been a major source of infant mortalities.”

Over the past 18 years, Kaya and a diverse group of health workers and midwives from the United States and Senegal have pioneered midwifery trainings that fuse modern medical advances with traditional Senegalese practices. The African Birth Collective has designed an exchange program between Senegalese and North American midwives to observe and learn from each other’s work. This approach has led to “more sustainable change – midwives will ask each other why they adopt certain practices, and then we’ll have long meetings where we debate these processes and come to a better understanding about these issues. It allows for a longer lasting change in knowledge and practice.”

Traditional Midwives in Kabar with their medicinal herbs

Traditional Midwives in Kabar with their medicinal herbs.

The African Birth Collective has also helped to coordinate the construction of Kassoumay Traditional Birth House, and works with different clinicians all over the country to improve the quality of birthing care, encouraging conversations between traditional birth attendants and clinicians. Their work has resulted in improved in birth outcomes, and increased participants’ overall understanding of the birth process. Instead of overusing medications, which Kaya says “focuses on pushing the baby out,” midwives have reclaimed the more traditional roles as “supporters who wait for the process to happen if all the vital signs are fine.”

The African Birth Collective has also undertaking a translation of Hesperian’s A Book for Midwives into French. A long list of midwives from the Congo, Burkina Faso, Haiti, Guinea, and other francophone locations eagerly await its publication. The Collective anticipates it will have “a massive impact on midwifery practices,” since there are very few French language training materials available that are suited for rural birth attendants. Unlike other resources, A Book for Midwives is simply written, easy to use, and contains many helpful illustrations that reinforce difficult concepts and valuable skills.

In addition to the comprehensive pregnancy and birth information in A Book for Midwives, the general health content (on topics such as nutrition, HIV, STDs, and how to perform pelvic exams) will help strengthen larger public health campaigns. Kaya stresses the importance of midwives in Senegal, saying that “often, outside public health projects will publish brochures and make billboards, but this doesn’t usually change people’s behaviors. They want to hear medical advice from someone they know and trust in the community, like their local midwives. The more effective these people are, the better these public health campaigns can be.”

Help celebrate International Midwives day by supporting the French translation project!

Find out more about the work of the African Birth Collective and their partner, Mother Health International.

To better support midwives in their efforts to meet the health needs of their communities, and in honor of International Day of the Midwife, we are today releasing new, lifesaving information on cryotherapy, an accessible treatment to prevent cervical cancer, available in the HealthWiki and as a free PDF download. While the simple “vinegar test” has for more than a decade identified women at risk for cervical cancer, it is only recently that giving midwives and other local health providers the training and tools to take the next step and prevent cancer from developing has been proven accessible, safe and effective. Once again, Hesperian is leading the way in making this life-saving information available in easy-to-read, heavily illustrated pages. This cryotherapy information will support midwives and health workers in their struggle to save hundreds of thousands  of women’s lives. 

 

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Defending the WHO

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Instead of withdrawing from the WHO in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and losing access to giving and getting vital information on disease spread, containment strategies, vaccine development, etc., the United States should defend WHO and expand its ability to address this and future disease outbreaks.  Unfortunately, it will not be enough to simply return to the status quo post-November. Read More

Managing Emotions During COVID-19

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We Make Inclusivity A Priority

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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire world, but has not affected all of us equally. In their reporting about the impact of the pandemic, news outlets often leave out the effects of COVID-19 on people with disabilities. People with disabilities have been hit hard by the loss of essential health services. And once again, women with disabilities are confronting the highest barriers to health and well-being. Read More

New COVID-19 Info You Can Put To Use!

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Hunger, Food Not Bombs and COVID-19

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Stop the Spread of Neglect

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Thank You, Translators!

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Our impact is only as strong as our partnerships. Fortunately, our enthusiastic and dedicated network of translation partners help bring our health information to people we otherwise would not reach. Read More

The Heroes of the COVID-19 Response

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Every year, the World Health Organization selects a specific theme to spread health awareness on World Health Day, April 7. Today, WHO is recognizing the selfless contributions of the nurses and midwives working day and night to protect people’s health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read More

More Trusted Sources of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

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The Right to Water Matters Now

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Connected by Coronavirus

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As countries close borders and encourage citizens to stay indoors, we are all united by our need for accurate and practical coronavirus information. Thanks to the incredible skill and participation of many partners on short notice, our Coronavirus Fact Sheet is now available in 13 languages, with more on the way! Read More

New 2020 Edition of A Book for Midwives!

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Coronavirus

March 5, 2020

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#MarchForEqualChoice Twitter Campaign

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Where There Is No Doctor For A New Decade

March 3, 2020

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Helping Children Live with HIV

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Hesperian’s newest book, Helping Children Live with HIV, takes a holistic approach to HIV care by integrating illness prevention and treatment with psychosocial support for families coping with poverty, discrimination, trauma, and loss. This health guide empowers caregivers supporting children’s well-being and healthy development. Read More

A Global Movement for Reproductive Justice

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Advocates like Miatta help bring our reproductive health apps to people that may have otherwise not been aware of Hesperian’s free digital tools. No matter where you are in the world, you can help spread the word about our essential safe abortion and reproductive health information! Read More

Safe Births and Beginnings

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Resources to support midwives, doulas, and community health workers ensuring safe births around the world. Read More

Introducing Hesperian’s Family Planning App!

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Hesperian’s Family Planning App is designed to encourage and support counseling conversations led by health workers, community leaders, and peer promoters. Read More

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Hesperian’s year has been all about opening new channels to health. As 2019 comes to a close, we reflect on how we have expanded beyond books as vehicles for sharing health information and what we hope to achieve in the new year. Read More

Handbook of Animal Health | 30% off Holiday Discount

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Teen shares information about reproductive health in Laos

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A Guide Through Grief

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This is Our America

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Protecting Women’s Health: Information & Actions

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New Chapter on Our HealthWiki: Vaccinations

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Spread knowledge this World Diabetes Day

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Border detentions: Institutionalized abuse

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Una semana después de celebrar su cumpleaños número 80, Davida y su esposo Tom Gorham, decidieron no continuar el tratamiento contra el cáncer. Davida falleció pacíficamente en el hospicio de Bruns House en Alamo, donde Tom estuvo de vigilia junto a amistades de la pareja.

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Protect the Planet, Protect Your Health

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Nurses and midwives on the frontlines of care

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International Women’s Day and Rohingya women

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Hesperian wins award to support reproductive health for Rohingya refugees

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The war in Yemen that has already killed thousands through bombing and starvation is now killing thousands more with one of the worst cholera outbreaks on record, over 300,000 reported cases. South Sudan, already struggling with fighting among armed factions and the threat of famine is now also facing a cholera outbreak.

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Shining a light on women’s health

Recently, we lost Simone Veil, a Holocaust survivor who became a French politician and advocate for women's health. Veil's message was that women forced into a corner by laws and social pressures are left with dangerous health choices, neglecting their safety or trusting the wrong people, and ultimately risking their lives.

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When a bug bite isn’t just a bug bite

After last year's frightening Zika outbreak, it comes as welcome news that reports of new cases have slowed down in areas of Brazil and the Caribbean. While cases in Florida also seem to be reducing, the CDC recently reported a larger breadth of the Zika-carrying mosquito in the south than previously known.

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Preparing students for success

Every year a new group of nursing students from the Boston College Connell School of Nursing Global Health Initiative travel to Central America equipped with the clinical knowledge they learned from their textbooks and a copy of Donde no hay doctor (Spanish edition of Where There Is No Doctor). Ronna E. Krozy, EdD, RN, who has led the program since 1991, first to Ecuador and since 2005 to Nicaragua, has found Where There Is No Doctor to be the most important resource her students have.

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Health promoters spread health and fight fear

Since the early 2000s, the Health Initiative of the Americas (a program of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health) has organized a yearly conference to bring together health promoters from the US and Mexico. At this year's conference Dr. America Bracho of Latino Health Access delivered a keynote that energized participants, reaffirming how critical it is for community members to build upon their unique strengths, especially through promotora programs.

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A Peace Corps Volunteer gives back

Hesperian books have been used by Peace Corps volunteers to improve health in their host communities for decades. Gregory MacCrone, an RPCV who served in Liberia and Thailand, shares his story of how he used Where There Is No Doctor to help a local girl.

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Mourn for the dead, fight for the living

April 28th is Workers' Memorial Day, when we honor and remember those who have lost their lives at and because of their work. This year's theme "Strong Laws, Safe Work" highlights the importance of fighting for workers' right to health and safety, especially now, as workplace protections are increasingly threatened in the US and worldwide.

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The latest Environmental Protection Agency budget details the new administration's plan to lay off 25% of EPA employees and to dismantle 56 programs, including pesticide safety and control of water runoff. It also eliminates restrictions designed to limit children's exposure to lead and cuts funding for research on climate change and water quality

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Hesperian depends on the labor of an energetic team of volunteers, who devote thousands of hours to every aspect of our work, from packing books to researching to fundraising. Our digital projects volunteers make building our HealthWiki possible: they proofread, code, design, manipulate images, translate and program. Their skills and time enable people to access Hesperian materials everywhere on tablets, cell phones, and other mobile devices.

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The future of public health is in your hands

With the release of its new budget, the White House has set public health squarely in its crosshairs. The proposed plan would slash funding for agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the CDC by billions of dollars and eliminate lifesaving programs of the Office of Community Services.

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School vouchers harm kids with and without disabilities

The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education has again raised the controversial topic of school vouchers. A strong argument against the voucher system is that private schools are not required to meet the same level of regulation as public schools. This creates serious problems for students with disabilities, as Senators Maggie Hassan and Tim Kaine brought up at DeVos' confirmation hearing. 

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Hesperian teams up with disability services organizations to build capacity

Through a partnership with the Disability Communications Fund, Hesperian recently completed a distance-learning program with 7 community-based organizations serving people with disabilities throughout California. The pilot program focused on enhancing each organization’s capacity to better connect with hard to reach families through the creation of effective outreach materials.

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NASA has found 7 Earth-like planets, but have we given up on ours?

The new US administration is working to take away protections to water and air quality and impose new policies that will harm our environment. Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline -- threatening the water supply on Native American lands -- is near completion after President Trump rebooted plans put on hold by the previous administration. 

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Hesperian’s commitment to health & social justice

Given the outcome of the recent US elections and the threat to people’s health and rights, Hesperian recommits itself over the next years to strengthen and support US movements for health and social justice. Healthy people in thriving, equitable communities – it’s not just a description of the world we work to create, it also describes the movements we must build to achieve it. We look forward to joining you in that struggle.

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Heart disease doesn’t have to be the number one killer

Heart diseases kill more of the world's people than anything else. Strikingly, three quarters of those deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. With the right resources and support, including regular primary health care, the risk factors for cardiovascular disease could be detected, people treated, and lives extended instead of being cut tragically short. Unfortunately, without access to regular, affordable health care, illness is caught too late, after the disease has progressed and treatment is not available or is too expensive. 

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Sharing critical information worldwide

As women in the US and around the world are orgnaizing to protect their rights, they can access critical health information, including family planning, with Hesperian resources. Readership of reproductive health information in the US and Mexico has reached nearly five million, as regressive political climates have made it more vital than ever for women to find respectful, trustworthy information about their health.

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Police Violence Is a Public Health Issue

Brutality and shootings by police are now getting more attention than ever, but police violence has been all too common for too long. Coverage in social media and even the mainstream press has greatly expanded, particularly for typically marginalized communities such as transgender people and people of color, as offenses are increasingly filmed or photographed, shared, and protested, often through the organizing of the Black Lives Matter movement.

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Fighting Climate Change on All Fronts

The new Timelapse feature on Google Earth lets you view the physical changes of the last 3 decades anywhere on the globe. Seeing how your neighborhood or city has developed since 1984 is fun, but the view becomes much more serious when you look at glaciers, or watch the northern coast of Asia - the pure whiteness of 1984 has faded to brown by 2016.

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On the ground in Peten, Guatemala

Project coordinator of the NEW Where There is No Doctor, Paula Worby, recently spent several weeks in Peten, Guatemala with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Paula worked with the UNHCR and Guatemalan organizations that are offering humanitarian aid to Central American migrants and asylum seekers heading northward.

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Toward a healthy and peaceful 2017

Hesperian accomplished a lot in 2016, but we know that there is so much more to do in 2017. Together, we can work to achieve health and justice. Look back at all the ways Hesperian contributed to Health for All in 2016, and then take a peek at the year ahead. 

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Family planning info shouldn’t be kept a secret

For many women and girls around the world, reliable and accurate family planning and reproductive health information is extremely difficult to find. Harsh laws and restrictions prevent women from even asking for the resources they need. Philippine websites that provide reproductive health materials are regularly hacked and taken down. Several Latin American countries have made it illegal to publicly provide basic family planning content.

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A Hesperian Book is a Gift of Health

Hesperian is thrilled to partner with the African Library Project to provide Where There Is No Doctor and other Hesperian books to community and school libraries in Africa, especially in rural areas where health information is scarce. With the support of donors, we have already distributed Hesperian books to 220 community libraries in Malawi, Sierra Leone and Ghana. 

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Helping Children Live with HIV: A Collaborative Effort

Each AIDS day, we remember and mourn those we have lost, while renewing our commitment to empower and care for the living. We are especially thinking about young children, who depend on others to advocate for them -- people who love them and understand the importance for everyone’s future of considering all our children’s needs while they are young. This advocacy is urgently needed for children affected by HIV.

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Fighting Against Asbestos

52 countries have banned the use of asbestos because it causes cancer and is a danger to public health. Unfortunately, the United States isn’t among them and has yet to completely ban asbestos. Last year’s Frank R. Lautenberg Act, signed by President Obama, took baby steps toward protecting Americans from some toxic substances, including asbestos.

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America Bracho Interviewed on KGNU’s Metro – Wellness Wednesdays

Listen to this captivating interview with America Bracho, Executive Director of Latino Health Access and author of Recruiting the Heart, Training the Brain. Dr. Bracho discusses the value of community health workers with host Elzabieta Kosmicki on the 11/16/16 edition of KGNU’s Metro - Wellness Wednesdays. 

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Babies and breastfeeding: 13 and counting

Too often, mothers and children in Somalia die in childbirth and infancy from lack of access to the prevention and treatment tools that would give them a chance at survival. Regular prenatal care, trained birth attendants, clean water and medical instruments, and availability of medicines are just some of the conditions needed for a safe delivery and healthy baby.

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Strategies for a cleaner environment

China creates much of the world's air pollution which, according to the World Health Organization, caused more than 1 million deaths in just one year. Nearly 40% of China's air pollutants come from coal burned in factories, power plants, and homes all over the country. China uses almost as much coal as every other country in the world combined.

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