Five Innovations to know in Central America and Mexico

Since 1990, Mexico’s mortality rate for children ages 1-4 has dropped over 60%. Death due to diarrheal diseases, such as cholera, has declined almost 85%, and mortality and morbidity due to Tuberculosis (TB) has also decreased significantly. Similar numbers are found in Central America. Much progress has been made, but these countries still face many health challenges. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations, about 5.6% of global Development for Health Assistance (DAH) funds, or about 2.01 billion USD, were allocated to Latin America and the Caribbean in 2014. With this money and the initiative of global innovators, health experts, and community members, private efforts have scaled up, health networking has increased, and local efforts have helped to create preventative and curative solutions. Here are five of the seventy-six innovative health programs that are featured on Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI) that are working to lower the burden of disease in the region. 

SalaUno, Mexico

Eye diseases are the second leading cause of disability in Mexico. Cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy not only cause a decreased quality of life, but put many individuals in an economically disadvantaged state. 60% of Mexico’s population is burdened with visual disability, though many of these diseases can be avoided with preventative surgeries, vision correction, and other treatments.

SalaUno launched as one clinic in 2010 in Mexico City, and has now spread to five locations throughout the city to lead the fight against eye disease. SalaUno targets low- and middle-income populations, in addition to the elderly. Cataracts surgery is the clinic’s specialty, offering small incision cataract surgeries at a fraction of the usual price of that in hospitals around Mexico. In addition, salaUno offers photocoagulation laser treatment (for patients with diabetic retinopathy), pterygium surgery, glaucoma treatments, and prescription glasses. SalaUno has increased their patient intake as they perform successfully under a high-volume model. Recently, SalaUno has partnered with local businesses to provide free eye surgeries and health visits to those who are most socioeconomically disadvantaged. SalaUno was a participant in CHMI’s Learning Exchange in 2015.

Tiendas de Salud, Guatemala

            Although Guatemala has seen a 67% decrease in death due to diarrheal diseases, it still remains as one of the top causes of mortality in the country. Diarrheal diseases are completely treatable and preventable, unless there is a limited access to clean water, treatment, and medication. And with approximately half of Guatemala’s population living in rural areas, it can be very difficult for clean water and life-saving drugs to reach everyone.

            Tiendas de Salud, or “TISA”, is a pharmaceutical organization that aims to reach Guatemalans living in rural areas. TISA follows a micro-franchising model, and operates through multiple, trained franchisees that sell drugs to economically disadvantaged communities. Because of TISA’s success in distributing medications at a low cost and high quality and volume, BanRural, Farmacias de la Comunidad, and Mercy Corps have all partnered to help expand the franchise so that 450,000 more people can be reached over the next few years.

Red Segura, El Salvador

            While maternal health indicators in El Salvador have improved significantly over the last 20 years, the maternal mortality rate (MMR) is still 120 deaths per 100,000 live births. Red Segura, meaning “Safety Net” in Spanish, is a network of 58 clinics that provide high quality reproductive services to women and families throughout El Salvador. Over 3,600 visits were recorded in 2012. Red Segura aims to serve low- to middle- income couples and families through providing cost effective family planning methods, such as IUDs, hormonal implants, male condoms, and prescription contraceptives. Specialists called Educadores conduct home visits, promote Red Segura, and offer counseling to families. Some Red Segura clinics even conduct cervical cancer screening and STI treatments. In an impact study, a survey found that, on average, women rated their visits to Red Segura clinics a 4.8 on a 5-point scale. Red Segura’s positive strides in reproductive health will help in reducing El Salvador’s MMR.

We Care Solar (Solar Suitcase), Nicaragua

            In the last 25 years, the Maternal Mortality Rate in Nicaragua has decreased, but this number is still high on the global scale, potentially due to the fact that approximately 40% of Nicaragua’s population live in rural areas with limited electricity and access to health facilities. Innovative health solutions, such as Solar Suitcase, are being implemented to decrease these numbers.

      We Care Solar functions as the implementer of the Solar Suitcase and operates as a non-profit working to provide the tools needed to perform essential obstetric care. In essence, We Care Solar creates and distributes safe, easy-to-use, solar-powered suitcases to clinics that need them. The program first started in Nigeria, where night deliveries can be dangerous because of the lack of electricity in many areas. The program experienced immense success, and is now present in 23 countries, including Nicaragua. The suitcases themselves contain LED headlamps, mobile charging stations, and provide up to 200 watts from solar panels. We Care Solar has distributed Solar Suitcases to over 700 facilities and have served over 10,000 people. 

Photo Right ©We Care Solar

Project Zumbido, Mexico

            Around 250,000 people live with HIV/AIDS in Mexico. And while antiretroviral therapy is free in the country, many with the disease do not seek treatment because of severe social stigma and a lack of counseling and social support.

            Funded by the SMH Foundation, Project Zumbido was started in the Mexican state of Jalisco with the goal of providing consistent, mobile support for those living with HIV. Using text messages, groups are able to create a network of emotional and social support, including reminders for taking pills and providing information for where to seek health services. In a primary assessment of the program, it was found that members’ emotional state improved significantly.

Such programs exist in many places around the world where people with HIV/AIDS are isolated and heavily stigmatized. CHMI profiles many similar, mobile programs, including CHAT in Vietnam, Text Me! Flash Me! Helpline in Ghana, and Bandhu Social Welfare Society (BSWS) in Bangladesh.

Photo Top: ©Tiendas De La Salud

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