A McMaster professor whose work in Guatemala has saved the lives of hundreds of women and their babies is in the running for a $10 million health care prize.
It's one of the biggest competitions in the world of healthcare.
Saturday night in Seattle, Melinda Gates will announce the finalists in a search for the most innovative health-care programs in the world.
The competition is called Saving Lives at Birth and is sponsored in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Christy Gombay teaches Global Health at McMaster University. He is one of only two Canadians and 63 others in the competition. Gombay's program trains Mayan farmers to become nurses in remote communities in rural Guatemala.
On Thursday morning he spoke with CBC Radio's Kevin Sylvester. You can listen to the entire interview here.
Below is an edited and paraphrased summary of that conversation.
What was your pitch to explain why your program should win?
In rural Guatemala five million women and children have little access to health care. We educated over a thousand Guatemalans to become community nurses and health workers. We gave them a basic tool, a cell phone, to talk with doctors in health centres. Today, we have 300,000 people in rural villages in one province who have access to care in their communities. Over a hundred women and children's lives were saved. Now the ministry wants us to take our show on the road and do it for two million more people.
How do you train people with no health care background on how to provide treatment?
First nations people have been historically excluded from government programs. We got youth from rural communities trained so they can go back and work there. We set up classrooms in rural health centres. Students implement what they learn minutes after they learn. Classroom time in the morning and practicums in the afternoon.
If you win, how will it change the services youu provide?
It will give us more clout. We know the neighbouring two provinces are the same. If we get the prize we'll begin to launch into the neighbouring provinces where it's basically first nations populations and two million more people who really need help. If we win we'll launch in September.