Mar 23, 2017

Update on our Child Malnutrition Research

Dear Friends,

As we told you in our last report, we spent much of last year collaborating with Grand Challenges Canada on a clinical research study on the effects of chronic malnutrition in child development.  Our researchers are currently working hard to publish this data and make it available to other global health workers, researchers, and nutritionists worldwide, but we wanted to share some of the preliminary results with you.

By now, you’re familiar with Wuqu’ Kawoq’s work on ammeliorating chronic malnutrition in infancy, and you know why we think it’s important.  There is fifty years of longitudinal data supporting the simple fact that a well-nourished child is much less likely to die of infectious disease during childhood and is much less likely to be chronically ill as an adult.  We also know that children who are chronically malnourished score lower on verbal reasoning tests and, for each standard deviation a child falls below “normal” on a growth chart, we can expect a subsequent drop in IQ. 

Chronic malnutrition during infancy has far-reaching implications for the health and well-being of that child for the rest of their life.  We feel that this is unjust— especially since chronic malnutrition is so easily treatable.

Data from our pediatric growth clinic suggested that intensive home-based approaches to treating chronic malnutrition could have meaningful nutritional and developmental outcomes.  If you’ve been following our work, you’ve seen for yourselves that this is often the case, as you’ve watched children improve over time with ongoing assessments and nutritional interventions.  

There is a large emphasis in global health on preventing stunting, but less emphasis on treating stunting in patients who have already fallen below normal on their growth chart, mainly because the window of time for successful treatment is comparatively small (“the first thousand days”), and because, on a wide scale, treating stunting is more expensive than preventing it.  However, in places like Guatemala, where more than 85% of children under five in a community are often already stunted, focusing on prevention simply isn’t enough.

We had three major hypotheses going into this project:

1) the diets of stunted indigenous Guatemalan children are of low-quality, and they can be improved with intensive in-home counseling by community health workers of the child’s primary caregivers

2) intensive in-home counseling will have positive effects on the growth of stunted children

3) intensive in-home counseling will have positive effects on the development of stunted children

The study found hugely significant improvements in both dietary diversity and dietary quality in the children’s diets following intensive home-based intervention, and we believe this may help explain the steady improvements we noticed in the growth and development of the study participants over time.


We learned a lot from this work.  Perhaps most importantly, it helps back up our argument that treating chronic malnutrition— as opposed to just preventing it—  is both feasible and justifiable.  


With your help, we will continue our efforts and apply what we have learned in our ongoing interventions and efforts to work with patients and their families to help lift the lifelong burden that is chronic malnutrition in childhood.  


With gratitude,


The Wuqu’ Kawoq | Maya Health Alliance Team 


Nov 25, 2016

Did you know Waim means mealtime in Kaqchikel Maya

We use the local language to empower families.
We use the local language to empower families.

Dear Friends,

It has been an extremely exciting year. We just finished a clinical research study understanding the effects of chronic malnutrition on child development. We are working hard right now to analyze the data and in our next report we will have results. The early information is showing that children who suffer from chronic malnutrition learn to talk much later than other children, and we believe that can have lasting effects on their overall growth as a person. 

I'd like to share a recent quote from our nutrition technician who works everyday with children and their families. Our staff is the driving force of our work. Without their dedication, hard work and skill, we would not be able to acheive our resuts. We are proud that our staff find this work as a calling to help their communities, it not only a job to clock in and clock out. Our staff, like Yoli, speak the local language of the communities in order to provide the best care. Yoli speaks Kaqchikel Maya during all visits with patients and their families.

We would like to teach you a Kaqchikel work: Wa'im (pronounced Why-Em with a long E). It means food, or meal time. It is a word that Yoli uses everyday to work with her patients and families. 

Words from Yoli:

“The families we help have enough trust in us and this motivates us a lot because we realize the reality of each family, at the same time joking with them and chatting about topics outside the range of our work. In this way they de-stress and comment that no one offers them services when they need them most.” -Yoli, Wuqu’ Kawoq Nutrition Technician 

One of the patients that Yoli has worked with is Melany.

When we met Melany she was 14-months-old. She was suffereing from being underweight and very small for her age due to malnutrition. This  dangerous condition is becaus her family does not have enough protein, calories, and nutrients to provide her.

In the short term, malnutrition means Melany has little energy to grow. Her immune system is weak, leaving her vulnerable to illnesses that further compromise her growth. She may also face malnutrition’s long-term consequences, such as increased risk of chronic diseases, low IQ, and higher likelihood of dropping out of school.

Melany lives with her family in a one-room house with a tin roof. She loves to play with her balls and baskets. Her father works as a day laborer, harvesting crops on a local plantation. Her mother takes care of her, cooking and cleaning.

While Melany’s parents want the best for their daughter, their resources are already stretched thin. They cannot afford the proper food necessary for Melany to grow well.

While malnutrition can have devastating effects, it is also very treatable. We are so happy that do to your support we can provide Melany with the treatment and help she needs to grow!

Growth monitoring, micronutrients and food supplementation have helped Melany grow. She has gained weight and grown during her treatment with us. Our community health worker, Yoli, has taught her mother how to create a nutrient-rich diet from limited resources.

Thank you for your continued, incredible support. I look forward to updating you on the details of our research very soon. 





Yoli, Nutrition Technician
Yoli, Nutrition Technician
Aug 17, 2016

August 2016 Report

Dear Friends,

We know that people around the world have diverse medical needs-- including indigenous Guatemalans that live in rural areas of this small Central American country.

As an organization we believe that all people deserve access to world class health care. And this health care begins with the youngest of our patients. Children in rural Guatemala are in need of basic nutrition care. Wuqu' Kawoq is recognized as a leader in the field of nutrition. Our malnuturion programs are among the most thoughtful in Guatemala. We help other organizations in Guatemala to implement their own programs, and we conduct important nutrition research.

In addition to our effective nutrition programs, we have pioneered an innovative referral system for patients living with complex disease in rural Guatemala. We successfully treat congenital heart disease, inborn errors of metabolism, end-stage kidney disease, complex surgical cases, and advanced cancers. Our team of case managers speak Mayan languages and whatever it takes to overcome the barriers to health care for our indigenous patients.

The important and crucial work we accomplish everyday would not be possible without support from people like you. And today we are writing to say Thank you. Thank you for your gift of reducing malnutrition in rural Guatemala. Thank you for allowing our staff to collaborate with other Guatemala-based organizations to ensure every Guatemalan has equal access to important and inovative malnutrion programming. Thank you for supporting our Mayan speaking staff to help overcome difficult barriers to health care in Guatemala. Thank you.

Respectfully and with Gratitude,

The Wuqu' Kawoq | Maya Health Alliance Team


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