Director, Indigenous Health and Human Rights

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Director, Indigenous Health and Human Rights

Ustupu, Panama
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

GIobally indigenous peoples have the lowest life expectancy, highest disease loads and highest child mortality rates caused by introduced pathogens and ideas. Although exposed to interventions over decades if not 500 year since Conquest, thus far community-based health solutions are nonexistent.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Indigenous peoples of Latin America are the poorest of the poor in our continent. The vast majority of indigenous communities, selvatic, rural and urban, lack the most basic services in all areas of public health. Most disturbing of all is lack to access to medicine due to prejudice.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

A grassroots, community-based innovation that brings together teams of community indigenous leaders, social entrepreneurs, cultural epidemiologists, and biotechnologists. The goal of the innovation is to incorporate into local cultures public health solutions that are adapted to local cultural and socio-ecological systems, in order to ensure sustainability through intergenerational transmission of solutions.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The proposed solution makes a difference because it starts and ends with cultural and social empowering through transference of knowledge that is adapted to the local culture and transferred intergenerationally.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

I implemented a grass-roots indigenous health care worker program in three indigenous communities in Paraguay over a period of 10 years. With community leaders and members, I exchanged ideas informally, worked with persons drawn to public health solutions, developed public health and medical protocols with participants, kept all members of the communities through meetings open to all, and informed them about every aspect of our collaborative work. By the end of the 2nd year, child mortality was reduced by more than 50 percent. In addition, the program became sustainable. Communities took over the programs, tailored them to their communities, train health care workers, and maintain protocols that they drafted and implemented through pro bono consulting and $20,000 from the AVINA Foundation. The three communities, through their efforts mainly, now have running water, electricity and school

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

My plan is to develop the innovation described above using a social entrepreneurship model. One of the key components of the intervention is to have members of the community agree on economic activities that are designed to generate the income that the community needs to maintain its public health infrastructure. Initially, we will need a budget of approximately $100,000 to develop and implement plans with native leaders in 2 sites,Latin America.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The World Bank, USAID, NGO's (lacking social entrepreneurship ethos), the Pan American Health Organization, and the Ministry of Health of Paraguay have introduced interventions in native communities throughtout Latin America, and they have invariably failed. I witnessed first hand the demise of these interventions mainly because 1) Outsiders were not committed to long-term change; 2) The impact of interventions was not measured; and 3) Outsiders felt from the beginning that 'indians' were fundamentally incapable of working 'efficiently' on any activity that required planning.

Founding Story

Noticing during discussions with colleagues in 2008 that the impact of our health care worker program was only part of the solution. Also, realizing that the innovation worked well because we trained health care workers by relying on the Spanish version of the book "Where there is No Doctor" by Werner. Our innovation is as straightforward as is Werner's. And it has the potential to grow into a Latin American grass roots industry for low income populations.


Ana Magdalena Hurtado's picture

Dear Friends,
I am looking for individuals who have found community-based low cost technologies that help increase population health through public health exposure and adaptation of knowledge, technology and skill sets. I would very much like to build a network with these members of our global health social entrepreneurship community. Thank you! A. Magdalena Hurtado, 2012 Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences