The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) generously provided the funding for the creation of the Maya Health Toolkit for Medical Providers. Over the years, Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB/MRS) noticed an increasing need for Maya language and cultural resources, as cases around the United States revealed a growing population of Maya immigrants. Upon receiving funding from the RWJF, USCCB/MRS partnered with Maya leaders in Florida to conduct a gaps analysis. In the second phase of the project Pastoral Maya Inc. and the Maya Heritage Community Project at Kennesaw State University conducted national focus groups to develop a network of trained Maya language interpreters and a toolkit for health and mental health care providers.
The objectives of this toolkit have been to identify the major healthcare barriers between Maya and medical professionals, and to create a variety of resources to bridge gaps in communication. Our philosophy and our vision demanded that we recognize Maya knowledge and beliefs in order to better understand the Maya and obtain true trust. Dozens of Maya in the United States gave us information and advice in the construction of this toolkit. Maya have long traditions of medical practices and beliefs, and understanding and appreciating their views and their holistic health beliefs will help promote a healthcare environment unobstructed by cultural differences.
Section one of the toolkit gives an overview of our vision, objectives, and methodology, and explains in some detail why a toolkit is needed for the Maya. Section two gives a cultural and historical profile of the Maya, and is compiled from academic sources and Maya testimony. This section demonstrates how tradition and religious spirituality profoundly influence concepts of health. Section three, through testimony and case examples, gives insight into Maya views of health and the special situations they face in the United States.
Section four contains the Toolkit Resources, which were carefully designed to meet the specific and unique needs of the Maya community. The body chart and other resources were designed keeping in mind that Maya immigrants may neither read nor write in any language, and they may not be accustomed to the printed page. Maya consultants assisted with the development of all educational materials. This section will also link to audio files that explain the PowerPoint presentations in four of the major spoken Maya languages.
Section five contains a comprehensive literature review of best materials on Maya health in the United States, and other published or online materials helpful in the making of the toolkit.
Section six introduces the Maya Interpreters Network; explains the need and value of the network, and how the network will be constructed.