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Mayan and Western Health

Pies de Occidente 
Quetzaltenango and Totonicapán, Guatemala
Ancestral Medicine, Violence Against Women


The region’s Indigenous peoples are particularly susceptible to conditions associated with poverty such as malnutrition, diarrhoeal and respiratory diseases, high maternal and infant mortality rates. They often face additional barriers (cultural, language, financial, etc.) in accessing official health services.

Project Description

This learning action cluster is led by PIES de Occidente (PIES).  This year PIES aims to ensure that Guatemala has a legal, political, and programmatic framework which promotes Indigenous health practices and improves health services to Indigenous peoples.  PIES will work towards this goal by organizing a regional exchange, debate, and literature review of the existing frameworks on Indigenous peoples health and healthcare practices. Based on these discussions and debates at the regional level, PIES will develop and introduce a Bill to the Guatemalan Congress that promotes and protects Indigenous and Ancestral Health practices in the country.  

Key Achievements 

• Mayan medicine content was institutionalized into the teaching curriculum of both the medical and nursing schools of the Western University Centre (CUNOC). For example, a course on human rights and Mayan medicine was developed and taught to 320 students in the first and sixth years of medical study.

• The medical staff of 5 different health districts were introduced to the Mayan medical model. This was done through activities such as exchanges between both Mayan and Western medical practitioners to develop effective referral procedures between practitioners of both medical systems.

• To address violence against women, 8 radio spots were developed in Spanish, K’iche and Mam and were played on 7 different radio stations in the department of Quetzaltenango