, , , , ,

One Nurse’s Fight Against Maternal and Infant Mortality


“I believe it is relationships that save lives, that by working together with others we can serve so many more. No matter what you face in life, never give up. The ripple effect knows no boundaries.”

Those are the three main lessons that nurse Arlene Samen says she has learned over the course of many years. Samen, a maternal and fetal medical nurse practitioner for 33 years, decided to take her efforts to a broader level by founding the organization One Heart World Wide. The nonprofit organization works to encourage community wide support of mothers in remote and underserved areas around the world. The organization has been extremely effective in improving maternal and infant mortality rates because it works on improving healthcare from inside existing infrastructure.

Samen devoted her medical career to traveling around the world to improve birth outcomes for both mother and child. In particular, while in Tibet, she took to a special connection and pursued her interest—she researched local culture, traditions and conditions in communities in order to go back into the clinical setting and encourage adjustments based on those culture-specific findings, making certain changes. She created a “Network of Safety” model that was used far and wide, first throughout Tibet, then expanded into other regions of the world where conditions for pregnant woman were poor.

Samen’s path to where she is today, seeing the problem firsthand in one way and then setting out to improve it by looking at other avenues, is seemingly common. However, the tremendous success and praise that she has received for her efforts are not always so commonplace. Many intervention programs fall flat since they adhere strictly to intervening rather than combatting the problem where it is. One Heart World Wide does not just build fancy medical centers or go village-to-village delivering babies and then leaving—it works to implement sustainable system wide change that improves outcomes for mothers in the area for the long-term. By building clinics, training staff, and using culturally appropriate and tailor-made adjustments to a general model, each project that One Heart World Wide takes on is personal and comfortable for the communities, encouraging long-term sustained changes.

To date, Samen is credited with helping as many as 60,000 women directly, with many more yet to come. She has met with the Dalai Lama, led countless discussions and won many awards for her work. Samen, with One Heart World Wide, continues to change lives around the world and continues to serve as an exemplary example to public health initiatives.

– Emma Dowd

Sources: CNN, Forbes, Huffington Post, One Heart World Wide
Photo: Foot Soldiers of Change