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Culturally Effective Maternal Health Education

In history we often read quotations about women who “died in childbirth” – including Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt (1884), first wife of Theodore Roosevelt, and Martina von Trapp (1951), member of the Trapp Family Singers (Sound of Music). While today these catastrophes are uncommon in the US and Canada, each year one-half million pregnant women resident in low-income nations continue to lose their lives from pregnancy and birth complications. Preeclampsia and eclampsia – along with hemorrhage, infection, and failure to progress – are among the leading causes of such deaths.

What could be effective in curbing these usually needless deaths? Application of basic, modern healthcare is the starting point, and in much of the developing world Community Health Workers (CHW) provide such healthcare. CHW typically are trusted community members with a high school education and graduates of a three-to-six month CHW school – a learning experience that emphasizes culturally effective healthcare education.

The above illustration exemplifies a culturally appropriate symptoms and signs of preeclampsia: headache, visual change, abdominal pain, and swelling. In such cases, pregnant mothers are directed to come to a health post. Through the insight provided by CHW, women become better armed with the warning signs of preeclampsia. Thus the tragic death and disability resulting from this disease can be halted and there be no more women who “died in childbirth.”

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