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Working As One with Health Poverty Action

Jessica Doyle - Health Poverty Action - 10 May, 2018

Health Poverty Action (HPA) was founded by a UK doctor in 1984 to support people in places where other organisations could not or would not go. HPA continues to stand with those who are unfairly excluded and to support hardworking health professionals working in tough circumstances across countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Under-resourced health systems, remote locations and discrimination can make it hard for them to do their jobs.

HPA are delighted that NB Medical have chosen to support them through their new campaign, ‘As One’. ‘As One’ gives UK health professionals the opportunity to support, empower and share expertise with their colleagues working abroad from right here in the UK to empower.

This support will make a huge difference. In Guatemala for instance, many indigenous women rely on Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) to deliver babies. These incredible TBAs often walk several miles to visit pregnant women and deliver their babies with minimal resources. In some communities, TBA support is the only maternal health support these mothers receive, and so the TBA role is essential. However, these TBAs often face barriers, for instance, when they reach the home, the mother may agree to see them, but her husband could deny entrance. In other cases, TBAs can be threatened with violence if they try to enter the house. Despite these challenging circumstances TBAs persevere to serve their local communities.

TBAs until now have had no access to medical training, but relied on knowledge passed down from generation to generation. HPA is now providing this training for TBAs, giving them the knowledge to identify danger signs in pregnancy. This means TBAs are now referring their patients to health centres before any medical complications become too serious.

Anastacia Perez is a TBA working in Guatemala, she says “you need to see danger signs, or the mother and baby die. I have seen changes [through HPA training] – the people now go to health posts…. TBAs get support, and when TBAs ask for help they get cars, or children would die. The health posts and TBAs work together and communicate well. If a TBA sees a danger sign, they get the woman to the health post or hospital. Health post staff will come, and together they will convince the family to take the woman to hospital. Both sides are vital in reducing maternal deaths”.

Anastacia Perez.jpg

Picture of Anastacia Perez, Traditional Birth Attendant, Guatemala, January 2018.

HPA is only too aware that training health staff is the first step. They are also working with health centres and the government to ensure they are held accountable, and provide quality, culturally appropriate healthcare to indigenous groups, without discrimination. By educating TBAs and health centre staff, trust has been improved and more patients are being referred to health centres to receive the healthcare they deserve. Together, these changes are making a huge difference to indigenous people living in remote communities and helping to reduce maternal mortality.


Picture of TBAs in Santa Maria, Totonicapán, Guatemala, January 2018.

NB Medical delegates can support the ‘As One’ campaign by getting involved in either of the following ways: 

1)     Practical support from here in the UK

An opportunity for health professionals here in the UK and abroad to share their expertise with each other. The idea is to learn from one another and exchange knowledge e.g. specialist digital support groups, designing online training, mentoring schemes etc. By sharing values and knowledge, we hope colleagues all over the world can support each other. To find out more click here.

2)     Financial support

We are encouraging UK health professionals to donate medically related costs to build capacity and support other health professionals with additional training and resources. You can donate anything from cremation form fees, the equivalent of paying for a colleague’s lunch, a one off locum fee, price of medical insurance, or even the cost of a journal subscription. To donate click here.

Check out our ‘As One’ website to learn more about the ways in which you can support your colleagues working abroad, from right here in the UK.

Jessica Doyle, Health Poverty Action

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