Ascencio Villegas, president of the University of Guerrero (third from right), leads a meeting with state officials and legislators to plan the consultation process for a school of medicine in La Montaña region of Guerrero

Indigenous people in Mexico suffer economic, educational and social disadvantages compared to the general population. These inequalities have a negative impact on their health. Among indigenous communities, the risk of dying before reaching twelve months of age is 70% higher than in the rest of the country. The risk of death during pregnancy and childbirth among indigenous teenagers is 200% higher than that of other Mexican teenagers.

In the State of Guerrero, there is a similar situation. The 319,000 indigenous people who live there make up 15% of the state’s population, but they suffer much higher rates of disease and death. Among other problems, indigenous people don’t have access to health services provided by indigenous medical and technical staff. The few doctors who go to work in indigenous communities don’t stay there, so the population is cared for by professionals with little experience who do not know the languages and health paradigms of the communities. All of this has a negative impact on the quality of health services. In the La Montaña region, less than 50% of the posts for general practitioners are filled, and none of them by indigenous doctors.

To help improve this situation, the University of Guerrero has proposed to create a School of Medicine with an intercultural focus in La Montaña. The project does not aim to train or certify shamans or healers, nor to fuse Western and traditional medicine. The school seeks to train indigenous students according to best standards of Western medicine, with a focus on the needs of indigenous communities. Doctors trained by the school will be of indigenous origin and will be oriented towards primary healthcare in a context of cultural safety. The school’s curriculum will take into consideration the epidemiological profile of communities in the region and their traditional health systems.

Links to CIET and the Safe culture, safe childbirth study

CIET is strongly committed to this initiative, which complements the vision and goals of the Safe birth in cultural safety study. Given our long experience in participative research with indigenous communities, CIET professionals and our partners at the Centre for Intercultural Medical Research (Centro de Estudios Médicos Interculturales, CEMI) and the Traditional Health System Research Group (Grupo de Estudios en Sistemas Tradicionales de Salud) from the University of Rosario, both from Colombia, will have a key role in designing the study programs and training professionals. The first step in this direction will take place at the end of 2012, with the training of intercultural technicians who will be able to participate in current CIET projects or work for social and health services in indigenous communities.

In this context, we are consulting with community authorities, traditional healers and midwives from La Montaña, to better understand the views and needs of indigenous peoples in the region.


Impact on people's lives

Abraham De Jesús' clinical practice changed as a result of our project.
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What do the numbers say?

We carried out the follow-up survey for the pilot study.
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Intercultural medical school

Evidence from our project feeds into this pioneering effort in Mexico.
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Traditional birth centres