|School alumna works to improve health of Mayan women and children|
|November 03, 2011|
This profile originally appeared in Contact magazine, published by the UNC School of Social Work. To read the article in its entirety, see the magazine's website.
Sunderland-Perez manages the Maternal and Child Health Program for "Pueblo a Pueblo," a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization working in Guatemala to improve the health of Mayan women and children. A 2008 graduate of UNC's dual degree program in social work and public health, Sunderland-Perez spends much of her time helping to provide reproductive education and family planning support to the rural indigenous women in Guatemala's Santiago region.
"We focus on providing pregnant women with free prenatal and postnatal medical care as well as medical checkups for their babies through age 5," she said. "So we're covering the most crucial time of a child's early life."
Donations help the organization support at least 67 women and their children each year. All of the medical care and education provided can be covered for about $25 a month - less than a co-payment to a doctor in the United States. Such services are significantly needed in a country with challenging health and human development statistics, Sunderland-Perez said.
"The total fertility rate is the highest in Latin America at 4.1 births per woman," she explained. "But in the areas where we work, women often have eight or more children, and less than 13 percent use family planning methods."
Although women in rural areas often lack access to reproductive health care, even when there are services, many avoid or ignore the assistance because the health care providers offering it don't speak the same language, Sunderland-Perez said.
"There are a lot of cultural factors there," she said. "Guatemala has 21 different dialects and in the community where we work where 98 percent of the population is indigenous, the first language isn't Spanish, it's Tz'utujil, which is very difficult for an outsider to learn."
Pueblo a Pueblo has been successful in reaching many of these women because the organization has an outreach worker on staff who speaks the community's language, said Sunderland-Perez, who supervises the worker. As a result, the nonprofit is better able to spread education on topics such as cervical and breast cancer, nutrition, and hygiene.
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UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, director of communications, (919) 966-7467 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Last updated November 03, 2011|