The Tia Foundation is a group dedicated to finding rural healthcare solutions. Laura Libman, CEO and president of the Tia Foundation talks about the foundation’s work and milestones they have accomplished this year.
Jose Cardenas: Thank you for joining us. The tia foundation is a group dedicated to trying to find rural health care solutions. The group reached two milestones this year. Here to talk about this is Laura Libman, CEO, founder and President of the tia foundation, welcome back to Horizonte. Remind us how tia got started and what it was.
Laura Libman: My intent was to address poverty in rural Mexico. I spent a good portion of my childhood down there. My mother's family is from there. I always wanted to go back and do something, so I studied international development at Thunderbird to learn some effective ways of dealing with poverty. Health is a key factor in alleviating poverty.
Jose Cardenas: And the approach that you chose to take is reflected in the foundation's name, tia, the Spanish word for aunt.
Laura Libman: Yes. We train health workers that are elected by their own villagers. They take care of, of their neighbors, and our philosophy is more like an aunt, who advises amd mentors, rather than, than a parent who goes in and, and tells them how things should be. So, that's why we came up with the name, tia.
Jose Cardenas: You've been doing this since 2005.
Laura Libman: Yes.
Jose Cardenas: The model, as I understand it involves participation by the University of Guadalajara.
Laura Libman: Their community medicine program.
Jose Cardenas: And how do they participate? What do they do?
Laura Libman: They are a wonderful training partner. We get a brigade of, of medical students, interns and, and their professors that go with us out into the field and do the training, and do a hands-on care with the villagers, and also, do our, our health education programs in the schools and in the villages.
Jose Cardenas: So right now, what parts of Mexico are you working in?
Laura Libman: We are now in four states in Mexico. We are in halesco, in kalema, and others.
Jose Cardenas: We talked about two milestones in the introduction, and the first one is the number of people you served in the nine years since you started.
Laura Libman: Yes. About a week and a half ago, we reached over 100,000 people that we are now serving in Mexico.
Jose Cardenas: We've got some pictures of the work that's being done. I want to start with a couple that focus on, on the health brigade, as you describe it. The first one, is what, they are taking blood pressure, or actually, this is, this is, what, showing how to deal with a broken arm?
Laura Libman: It's, actually, a broken clavicle. How to stabilize a broken clavicle so the patient can be transported to escalated care.
Jose Cardenas: So you have got the students, who I assume are in the, in the medical garb, and are these villagers being taught how to do this?
Laura Libman: Yes. They are. They received very extensive training, down there, it will be called [Inaudible], like an emt here. It's a little beyond, they learn how to set up I.V.s, how to give injections and even learn how to deliver a baby. We hope that they don't have to. But, they learn how to do quite a few very necessary things in communities where they are hours away from medical care.
Jose Cardenas: And they spend about -- the teams are there for a week, is that right?
Laura Libman: Yes.
Jose Cardenas: Ok. And we have got another picture that I want to put up on the screen. This is, as I understand it, shows what, the registration process as, as the villagers are coming in to, to -- for the education?
Laura Libman: Actually, that is, that is the examination for the health workers. They each receive a medical kit that's valued close to $2,000. And, and we need to know that they acquired the body of knowledge necessary to use that medical kit. We have to be confident in both their practicum skills as well as their basic knowledge, so, that was their final examination of our most recent project launch, and they all passed.
Jose Cardenas: And how do you make sure that -- what's taught in this period is, is continued, and implemented?
Laura Libman: We pre-negotiate with the local Governments, the municipalities there, so they provide continuing education and resupply of the medical kits. That's something that we negotiate ahead of time. That's what, what allows us to be fully self-sustaining.
Jose Cardenas: And, and in terms of accomplishments, obviously, the fact that you have served 100,000 people is an important one. But, what other things over the last nine years are you particularly proud of?
Laura Libman: Well, we now have 261 health workers after our last launch. We have not lost a single one. None of them have sold anything out of their medical kids, they are volunteers and that's, that's one thing that I am extremely proud of. We do follow-up studies to check on our villages and we have not lost anyone. They are all still very enthusiastic about the work that they do. The other thing that I'm very proud of is we have one of the best medical schools in Latin America, as our training partner. So, I feel that, that our health workers get world class training.
Jose Cardenas: Give us a sense of the kinds of medical issues that you are dealing with in these rural communities.
Laura Libman: The primary issues that we deal with are, actually, metabolic disorders like diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity. But, we do, in some areas, have Scorpion and spider bite problems, and in the malnourished, that can be deadly. We also have the issues of denge fever, some places have Cholera. Influenza outbreaks like we saw when I was here five years ago with h1n1.
Jose Cardenas: So, before we get to the second milestone, which is an important thing to talk about, I want to talk quickly about the efforts to expand your services, and we have a couple of pictures of some of the indigenous populations that, that you want to expand to, and the first one, I think, is --
Laura Libman: Yes.
Jose Cardenas: What part of Mexico are we talking about?
Laura Libman: They are in the mono -- the hand that reaches up in the geographic state, and they live in an area extremely remote. It takes 18 hours or more to drive there. They have very little health care. There is about 40,000 living there, and one doctor. So, we would like to get some health workers trained, but some of our brigade, we're going to have to fly up in small planes to get them up there and have our mobile medical units follow on the road.
Jose Cardenas: And another population that you want to serve, or actually, you know, people talk about the Aztecs, it's really the people of central Mexico. We have another picture of, of some of those people. Another group that you want to reach.
Laura Libman: Yes. I visited these people on my last trip to sort of do some of the advanced planning for our next project. These people live at least the first set of villages four hours. They don't have the vehicles. So, it's a four-hour walk for the nearest villages to get to medical care.
Jose Cardenas: So, you need money to do this?
Laura Libman: Yeah.
Jose Cardenas: And in fact, you survived the downturn in the economy, congratulations on that, but, the other milestone that we want to talk about is, is a fundraising event, which is kind of a first for you. Tell us about that.
Laura Libman: We have a world renowned artist, Felipe, who is a sculptor who has donated some pieces, as well as Jose luis.
Jose Cardenas: Very, very famous Mexican artist.
Laura Libman: Yes. And we're really thrilled about it. We are co-hosting an event with the Mexican consulate who is, is happy to help support our work in Mexico and we are also having a matching grant program during to cover the communities. So, dollar for dollar, any of the, of the funds that we receive, I think, it's before mid-November, are going to be matched by that donor.
Jose Cardenas: And, and the event, itself, is --
Laura Libman: It's a week from Saturday. It's November 8th.
Jose Cardenas: Good luck on that event, and thank you for joining us and, and we wish you the best of continued as you can see.
Laura Libman: Thank you.
Jose Cardenas: It's good to see you.
Laura Libman: Thank you.
Laura Libman:CEO and President, Tia Foundation;