The Children’s Prize recently hosted via a G+ Hangout Stories with Heart: A Commitment to Child Survival, with guests Jacqueline Cutts from Safe Mothers Safe Babies (SAFE) and Rachel Zaslow from Mother Health International (MHI). These two ladies shared heartfelt experiences from their time in Uganda which inspired their journey to pursue their current work in maternal and child health. Through compelling stories, Mrs. Cutts and Ms. Zaslow offer an insider’s perspective of the complex issues involved for those receiving interventions, those directly providing the interventions and also the role of foreign aid in this process. “We really need to be transparent about the work that we’re doing and about the potential impact for harm when you come into another community,” states Rachel Zaslow.
The Stories with Heart video uncovers the challenges faced when working in maternal and child health and how these two organizations are committed to mother and child survival through a community and holistic approach to care. “Rather than assuming that as a public health professional that I know what the community needs, I want to go into that community and I want to really understand and help from their perspective, within the local context,” says Jacquie Cutts. The examples shared by our guests not only raise awareness of the issue at hand but also allow us to more critically analyze how solutions to the issue are complex and sometimes carry unintended consequences. Both organizations have implemented innovative solutions that consider cultural norms and community limitations in order to best serve the people that they are working with. An excellent example is Mother Health International’s Heart Strings to monitor fetal heart rates throughout pregnancy and delivery making the difference between an infant who lives and an infant who dies.
As the conversation focused on technology, Dr. Caplow posed thought-provoking questions for our guests. Given that more accessible technologies like cell phones and video represent the human revolution of our lives, our guests provided specific insight on this point. “The collaborative process is absolutely technologically dependent in some ways,” says Jacquie Cutts and describes how SAFE provided a Ugandan community with cameras and used photography to help discuss maternal and child health from their perspective to better understand what was working and what wasn’t. Mother Health International is also witnessing the impact of technology in the communities they serve, “cell phones are loaded with credit to call the ambulance and have women be transported to a clinic and receive immediate care. The people in the community know who has the phone that is loaded with credit.”
It was interesting that both donor and recipients shared their frustrations with the current philanthropic model. Our guests discussed how being able to connect with the donor is critical and that recipients of aid should not be afraid to make mistakes. After all, “making mistakes with the community is where you create better outcomes“, points Rachel Zaslow. As Dr. Caplow summarizes, “the more there’s a two-way communication in place [between the donor and the recipient], the more fine tuned and sensitive that aid assistance can be.”