TulaHealth is a part of the Tula Foundation; a philanthropic organization from British Columbia, Canada, with roots in the high-tech sector and more than 15 years of experience of using technology to further its mission of solid science, community engagement, and social justice. TulaHealth is dedicated to implementing innovative global health strategies that improve health, reduce poverty, and build social justice and equity in marginalized communities around the world.
Due to our long-term commitment and technical success supporting the needs of frontline primary health workers, TulaHealth has continuously been able to extend the scale and scope of its global health projects. Since 2003, we have collaborated with a broad range private-public partnerships, including the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), World Food Programme (WFP), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), World Bank, Global Affairs Canada, Dimagi, Tigo Foundation, Alliance for Nutrition, and McMaster University.
History in Guatemala
When Tula Foundation was founded in 2001, we knew our priority would be health given our organizational experience in health systems. We were particularly concerned with the issue of health equity in low-income countries, and knew that we wanted to focus on a global region that was well matched to our technical capabilities. In 2003, we officially began our work with two Canadian partners; the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Centre for Nursing Studies (CNS) in Newfoundland. The goal was to train a critical mass of auxiliary nurses (similar to licensed practical nurses in Canada) living in remote communities in Guatemala; communities which frequently lack basic health services. Based upon a distance education model that combines internet-based communication and local clinical tutorials, rural youths could be trained and hired as auxiliary nurses in their home communities.
Strengthening Local Commitment
By 2006, CIDA had begun to scale back its involvement, so we decided to increase our support in response. Due to a combination of factors, we choose the region of Alta Verapaz in the central highlands of Guatemala as our starting point. By 2008, TulaHealth had become the sole funder of the program. At the same time, we recognized that the Guatemalan team was capable of running their programs independently. Accordingly, we established a Guatemalan non-profit organization, TulaSalud, staffed entirely by local professionals. TulaHealth continues to provide funding, advice and technical assistance to TulaSalud where necessary, drawing upon our network of advisors and volunteers in Canada.
Going the Distance
We are determined to see health care go the ‘last mile’ to isolated communities. To that end, we continue to work with the Ministry of Health in Guatemala to provide supplementary resources for supporting health personnel in rural communities. Most recently, TulaHealth introduced a digital health system, which uses smartphones to support the delivery of health services. Trained and equipped with smartphones, health personnel in Guatemala’s most remote and challenging communities are able to coordinate the transfer of high-risk patients, consult with a network of health professionals, collect community health data, and use digital media to provide health education.
In 2016, Global Affairs Canada (formally CIDA) agreed to co-financed TulaHealth’s $10.3 million Scaling-Up project in Guatemala, under its Partnerships for Strengthening Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health. This award came at an opportune moment, as we prepared to support TulaSalud in expanding the digital health initiative to additional regions in Guatemala. Receiving this award and witnessing improved health outcomes in communities served has been encouraging for the program in Guatemala, specifically in the area of maternal, newborn, and child health.
Over the years, we have always maintained focused on the goal of improving health outcomes in rural communities in Guatemala. Technology is merely a means to the end, the end being improvement in health outcomes. Nonetheless, we do believe that appropriate technology can be of great benefit to health care personnel in rural Guatemala, who are spread so thinly across a complicated landscape.