Mothers orchestrate the health care of their families and communities. Therefore, it is not surprising that Siempre Salud’s community health workers (“promotoras”) are almost exclusively women, most of them mothers.
The health of the community would suffer without mothers. However, there is an economic burden that comes with mothers’ roles as stewards of the community’s health. Women leave home-based small businesses, self-employment, and jobs to take care of their families. When elderly parents become ill and unable to live independently they move in with their adult children under the loving care of a daughter or daughter-in-law. A sick child stays home from school under the loving care of her mother. A child born with developmental delay receives care around the clock from his grandmother. Peru is among the countries with the world’s highest incidence of cervical cancer, a fatal disease that strikes women in their mid-40’s. When a family loses a mother, older children leave school (to care for younger siblings) resulting in less education and, thereby, less economic opportunity. Alternatively, children deprived of their mother move in with other families. The same income has to feed more hungry children. The problem underscores the importance of Siempre Salud’s cervical cancer prevention program. Cervical cancer is nearly 100% preventable and prevention is both inexpensive and relatively simple.