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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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'We let them know they have power'

Lutheran-supported ministry boosts health of women in Chile

“See this?” asks Sonia Covarrubias, a social worker and health educator. “A mammogram is able to detect something this small.” She rolls a tiny, seed-pearl sized ball between her index finger and thumb. It’s the smallest part of a necklace of wooden beads, the largest of which resembles a golf ball.

The necklace is used for an education campaign of the Educación Popular en Salud (Popular Education for Health). In Chile, where EPES says breast cancer is the second highest cause of death for women aged 25 and up, Covarrubias works with the group’s health-care promoters in Santiago and Concepción to train women to do self-examinations. The necklaces show the difference between lumps that can be detected with self-exams and those only a mammogram can find.

But many women who detected a problem “had to wait months to get mammograms,” Covarrubias says. “There simply weren’t enough machines. So we decided to campaign for another machine. We collected [more than] 1,000 signatures from women and took them to Chile’s health ministers. The hospital got another machine, but there wasn’t money to get it to function. Now we’ve begun a project to get the human resources to run it.”


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