UNICEF and the European Union, with support from the Academy of Mayan Languages, launch two culturally relevant technologies to promote adolescent health and prevent chronic malnutrition in children

In Guatemala, 1 out of every 2 children under 5 years of age suffers from chronic malnutrition. And 1 in 5 women between 15 and 19 years of age has already had children or has been pregnant.

01 May 2023
Servicios inclusivos

Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, March 2023 - The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the European Union, with support from the Academy of Mayan Languages of Guatemala (AMLG), are launching two culturally relevant technologies: Inclusive Health and Happy Heart. The aim is to bring health services closer to adolescents and disseminate messages through mobile telephony to prevent chronic malnutrition and promote comprehensive early childhood development.

Guatemala is a multicultural country where there are 22 Mayan communities, however, the use of Spanish still predominates in health services and among health professionals. This increases the barriers for indigenous adolescents, mothers, fathers and caregivers to approach health centers and receive timely medical attention. This aggravates problems such as teenage pregnancy and chronic malnutrition.

For this reason, UNICEF and the European Union, in partnership with the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance and the Academy of Mayan Languages of Guatemala, developed two technological tools to translate medical consultations in health services into Mayan languages. And, on the other hand, to provide mothers, fathers and caregivers with messages in native languages that favor proper growth of their daughters and sons in their first years of life.

“Lack of access to adequate health services can have a negative impact on the lives of the most vulnerable children. By bringing these services to the most vulnerable communities in their native languages, we can help prevent disease and improve the quality of life of children. Significantly improving the quality of their lives and helping them reach their full potential”. Estuardo Pineda, UNICEF’s Guatemala Innovation and Technology for Development Officer, said.

One of the problems that most affects the adolescent population in the country is the high prevalence of early pregnancies. In 2016, 74,041 births were reported in girls and adolescents aged 10 to 19 years. In rural areas, 24 percent of adolescents have begun childbearing. Additionally, 1 out of every 2 children under 5 years of age suffers from chronic malnutrition, a multi-causal situation that is related to structural factors such as poverty, lack of access to health services, early education, water, hygiene and sanitation. But it is also related to more immediate aspects such as practices, knowledge and behaviors of mothers and fathers regarding parenting models.

Within the framework of the Great National Crusade for Nutrition, the expected practices for pregnant women and mothers of children under five years of age were established. Based on these practices, the messages sent to users of the “Happy Heart” service were defined to support the development of their children and contribute to achieving the goals established in the Great National Crusade for Nutrition.

On the other hand, within the framework of the National Plan for Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy (PLANEA), it was identified that one of the barriers for adolescents to attend health centers is to be attended in their own language. For this reason, together with the Health Area Directorate of the Ministry of Health and the AMLG, the “Inclusive Health” tool was created.

According to Susana Fernandez, Cooperation Attaché of the European Union: 2Over the past few years we have worked closely with UNICEF to address the challenges faced by Guatemalan children. I am pleased to launch these tools today and to see that our support is having a positive impact on Guatemalan communities to promote sustainable and equitable development throughout the country.”


The mobile messaging service “happy Hearth” seeks to provide useful and culturally relevant information to mothers, fathers and caregivers and pregnant women to empower the development of girls and boys. “Happy Hearth” operates under a free, anonymous and voluntary subscription model. The messages promoted have been developed by experts and cover practical advice on nutrition, health, hygiene, sanitation, breastfeeding, complementary feeding, loving and sensitive care and early education.

It is a multilingual service available in: Ixil, Chuj, Chorti, Akateko, Poqomchí, Q'eqchí, Q'anjob'al and Spanish. Happy Hearth’s messaging service makes use of mobile technologies, specifically the use of text messaging (SMS) and voice messaging (IVR), as well as social networks. It promotes improvement of knowledge and attitudes to implement positive actions in early childhood. 

The "Inclusive Health" Translation solution is a solution that uses technology to facilitate communication and interaction between children and parents with health workers. This technology gives health personnel the possibility to generate a dialogue and provide a range of possible answers to be given by the interlocutor in the patient’s Mayan language. The “translator assistant” will improve delivery of health services, which in turn will motivate indigenous adolescents to return to the medical facility to continue exercising their right to health, helping to reduce teenage pregnancies, malnutrition and infant mortality.

The translator assistant will use a predefined adolescent health care protocol based on the questioning instruments currently implemented by MSPAS and their possible answers. This solution will be used in health services by both health personnel and adolescents and will cover the complete care flow: reception, pre-consultation, medical consultation and post-consultation.

The digital solution includes visual elements and audio recordings that were provided by the Academy of Mayan Languages of Guatemala.

If you live in Guatemala and want to subscribe, please click here.

Media contacts

Carolyn McCaffrey
Communication Specialist (Advocacy)
UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean
Tel: +507 6857-2243
Pilar Escudero
UNICEF Guatemala
Tel: (502) 2327 6373

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