Working Hard

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By: María Laura Casalegno, Young Champion of Maternal Health

This blog post was contributed by María Laura Casalegno, one of the fifteen Young Champions of Maternal Health chosen by Ashoka and the Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth. She will be blogging about her experience every month, and you can learn more about her, the other Young Champions, and the program here.

This February we had many meetings with very interesting people who could be helpful and supportive as I develop my own project.

When I arrived from Kansas to Mexico City, I had the great opportunity to meet Marieke Van Dijk. She is a regional associate with the Population Council’s Reproductive Health program in Mexico and Latin America. We spoke about my experience in Mexico and how fascinating it is working with Dr. Hall and his team. I was telling her about my ideas and projects and I described her the innovative idea that I wrote for the Young Champions of Maternal Health Program about Maternal Health workshops in rural areas. She was very interested in supporting me. It really was a great visit, Marieke is such a nice person and a great entrepreneur.

After the meeting with Population Council in Mexico City, I returned to San Miguel de Allende and to PACE’s office, where I participated in meetings to define details of the International Federation of Emergency Medicine (IFEM) Symposium. The Symposium will be held in San Miguel de Allende on June 21st to 24th 2011. After analyzing the situation of being in contact with Emergency Experts from all over the world, I decided to stay to attend and also to help to organize the IFEM Symposium. With the PACE Team we are working very hard to organize this event and to accomplish it to make it perfect because we are waiting for about 600 Emergency Physicians from every corner of the globe.

On February 9th I went back to Mexico City with Dr. Hall to participate in two meetings. First we met Sharon Bissell Sotelo, MacArthur Foundation Director in Mexico. And after that we met Dr. Luis Alberto Villanueva Egan, Director of Maternal and Perinatal Health’s Program from the Ministry of Health who offered support to help me develop my ideas and projects.

After we met Sharon and Dr. Villanueva we contacted Dr. Felix Bonilla, he is the General Secretary of Ministry of Health from Panama. The idea of contacting him is to extend the program ALSO in Mesoamerica, in the context of Mesoamerica Health Initiative 2015. Dr. Bonilla is very interested in carry on this idea and we are now defining next steps to develop the strategic plan to land this program there.

I also worked on an Obstetric First Respondent project, an idea that Dr. Hall was planning that has points in common with my own idea that I wrote for the Young Champions Program. This project involves training workshops in rural communities, aimed at midwives, doulas, health workers and the community in general. One of the main goals is to train the community in the early detection of signs and symptoms of obstetric emergencies and to develop skills to detect women who need to be transferred to health services with higher levels of complexity. With this idea we are trying to decrease the first delay in the maternal care. In fact, the major goal is to empower all the community in maternal care and thus accomplish our principal aim of decreasing maternal mortality rates.

Along with all the work we were doing in organizing events and planning PACE projects, I contacted Wendolyn Vasquez Marin, Director of San Miguel de Allende Women’s Institute (IMAM in Spanish) to attend and help in the Mobile Women’s Health Unit organized by the Institute. In this occasion we went to a rural area just around San Miguel and we did a Campaign for Detecting Cervical Cancer.

We have an excellent collaborative relationship with Wendolyn and the Institute because we worked together to hold the ERAS (Sexual Assault Response Team) Program. In the near future I’ll keep attending the Mobile Unit because is a great experience with the community and it is also related to my Young Champion idea. We have to figure out how we are going to articulate the Mobile Unit with the Obstetric First Respondent.

To conclude a busy but fascinating month, I participated as a student in the ALSO Course. Thanks to training, I could develop new skills in obstetric emergency care. ALSO is a very practical course that helps Health Workers to standardize their knowledge and to be more organized at the time of managing an obstetric emergency.

Another month has passed and I have added more knowledge to my experience which is getting better and better with time.