Mobile Apps Aim to Improve Maternal Health in the Dominican Republic

This article is presented in partnership with Project HOPE

Project HOPE is a global health and humanitarian organization, working side-by-side with local health workers and communities to save lives and improve the health and well-being of people around the world.

Learn more about Project HOPE

A pregnant Dominican woman holds up a tablet and smiles in front of a blue wall.
This article is presented in partnership with Project HOPE

Although the Dominican Republic has one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America — and is the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean — nearly one in three people still live below the poverty line.

This also leads to significant inequities, especially in healthcare for low-income women and children. In fact, the country has one of the highest neonatal mortality rates in the region — and maternal mortality is on the rise

It’s also important to keep in mind that the country has one of the highest rates of adolescent pregnancies in Latin America, where adolescents account for about 23% of all pregnancies in the country every year. (And 75% of those pregnancies are unplanned.)

A woman holds her infant close to her chest.
A new mother at the Dr. Morillo King hospital in La Vega. Photo courtesy of Marie Arago/Project HOPE

“We usually see between 15 and 20 pregnant adolescents each day,” Ruth Zettouri, head of the Department of Adolescents and nurse at Hospital El Almirante in Santo Domingo, shared with Project HOPE, a global health and humanitarian organization. 

“The biggest challenges are how they will care for themselves during pregnancy — including nutrition — and how they will care for the baby after giving birth. For non-pregnant patients, the biggest challenge is addressing the taboos they have regarding family planning. Many do not know much about the subject.”

Project HOPE has invested in a number of supports to help change the future of women’s health in the Dominican Republic.

In order to change health outcomes for low-income women and girls, education is paramount. 

A young mother holds her baby.
New mother Ericka with her baby in the waiting room at the Sabaneta public health clinic in La Vega. Photo courtesy of Marie Arago/Project HOPE

One part of this work is Project HOPE’s post-graduate education program on obstetrics and neonatal care for nurses with the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Health. 

The program, which launched in April 2017, with assistance from faculty at the University of Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, empowers nurses with training to save lives and teach others how to better care for themselves and their families.

Since the start of the program, Project HOPE and its partners have trained over 435 hospital staff members across the country and helped 11 new nurses get NICU assignments at San Lorenzo de los Mina Maternity.

The education program hinges on Project HOPE’s “5 Stars” model, which encourages the completion of essential health services for women throughout pregnancy and the first five years of their child’s life. 

As part of the 5 Star Mothers program, the organization has developed a mobile app that will share this valuable information with expectant mothers in an easy-to-follow digital format, as well as provide a vital link between medical practitioners and their patients. 

A doctor holds up a tablet, showing the Five Star Mothers app
The 5 Star Mothers app provides information for doctors and patients alike. Photo courtesy of Marie Arago/Project HOPE

In addition to this program, Project HOPE is working to improve health education among the Dominican Republic’s youth. 

A spin-off of the existing initiative is the 5 Star Youth program, which trains health workers on sexual and reproductive health and contraception in Santo Domingo, La Vega, and La Altagracia. The program will soon expand into lectures on family planning and decision-making in public high schools in La Vega.

Similarly to the 5 Star Mothers program, an accompanying mobile app is being developed to reach youth across the country. 

“The hope is to inspire teenagers to identify their dreams, set goals, build plans to achieve them, and be able to increase their knowledge to make informed, healthy, and age-appropriate decisions,” Adriana Wanderlinder, program manager for Project HOPE, shared in a blog post.

The success of both of these programs depends on a nationwide network of skilled and dedicated health workers. 

“I loved the training,” Zettouri, the department head at the hospital in Santa Domingo, said. “We learned a lot of things we didn’t know. What I liked the most is that we are going to be able to work with adolescents in their environment, through technology and digital applications. I want them to learn to be able to take care of themselves.”

Header image courtesy of Marie Arago/Project HOPE

Article Details

October 5, 2023 6:30 AM
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