Publications Fuzzy cognitive mapping and soft models of indigenous knowledge on maternal health in Guerrero, Mexico


Une publication de Ivan Sarmiento et collègues disponible en accès libre grâce au soutien du RRSPQ (Concours de soutien à la publication 2019-2020). BMC Medical Research Methodology volume 20, Article number: 125 (2020)

A publication by Ivan Sarmiento and collegues, open access online thanks to the Network financial support (2019-2020 Support for scientific publications competition). BMC Medical Research Methodology volume 20, Article number: 125 (2020)


Ivan Sarmiento, Sergio Paredes-Solís, David Loutfi, Anna Dion, Anne Cockcroft & Neil Andersson 

Authors' abstract


Effective health care requires services that are responsive to local needs and contexts. Achieving this in indigenous settings implies communication between traditional and conventional medicine perspectives. Adequate interaction is especially relevant for maternal health because cultural practices have a notable role during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. Our work with indigenous communities in the Mexican state of Guerrero used fuzzy cognitive mapping to identify actionable factors for maternal health from the perspective of traditional midwives.


We worked with twenty-nine indigenous women and men whose communities recognized them as traditional midwives. A group session for each ethnicity explored risks and protective factors for maternal health among the Me’phaa and Nancue ñomndaa midwives. Participants mapped factors associated with maternal health and weighted the influence of each factor on others. Transitive closure summarized the overall influence of each node with all other factors in the map. Using categories set in discussions with the midwives, the authors condensed the relationships with thematic analysis. The composite map combined categories in the Me’phaa and the Nancue ñomndaa maps.


Traditional midwives in this setting attend to pregnant women’s physical, mental, and spiritual conditions and the corresponding conditions of their offspring and family. The maps described a complex web of cultural interpretations of disease – “frío” (cold or coldness of the womb), “espanto” (fright), and “coraje” (anger) – abandonment of traditional practices of self-care, women’s mental health, and gender violence as influential risk factors. Protective factors included increased male involvement in maternal health (having a caring, working, and loving husband), receiving support from traditional healers, following protective rituals, and better nutrition.


The maps offer a visual language to present and to discuss indigenous knowledge and to incorporate participant voices into research and decision making. Factors with higher perceived influence in the eyes of the indigenous groups could be a starting point for additional research. Contrasting these maps with other stakeholder views can inform theories of change and support co-design of culturally appropriate interventions.