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Dr Magaly Blas, MD, MPH, PhD is a medical epidemiologist, professor and researcher at Cayetano Heredia Peruvian University in Lima, Peru.

She is also one of the authors who published her research findings in a special BMJ Innovations collection on social innovations in health.

This story tells the impact that publication has had at a governmental level.

Dr Blas is the programme director and founder of  Mamás del Río (Mothers of the River), a multidisciplinary initiative that improves the health of mothers and newborns in remote and rural indigenous communities along  1,000 kilometres of the Amazon river in Peru and Colombia.

The pandemic has profoundly disrupted the provision of health services across the globe, particularly in remote and rural regions. Mamás del Río uses social innovations to empower community health workers by addressing the healthcare delivery gap using mobile devices with relevant information to ensure the best patient outcomes. 

A special collection on social innovations in health published by BMJ in 2022 helps to showcase the Mamás del Río programme’s success in helping community workers adapt in response to communication challenges posed by a strict, national lockdown. In their paper included in the collection, Dr Blas and colleagues evaluate how technological interventions help communities adapt to a new clinical setting within a post-pandemic context.

It also illustrates how social innovation is particularly well suited for the covid-19 response because it focuses on local needs, develops low-cost solutions and builds on community strengths.

Image. Dr Blas (centre) with a patient and community worker in Peru

“We found in BMJ a voice to report on what was happening to us during the pandemic to the international world.”
Dr Magaly Blas, Medical epidemiologist, professor and researcher at Cayetano Heredia Peruvian University in Lima, Peru

Since the BMJ Innovations publication of the collection: Social Innovations in Health, Mamás del Río has expanded into remote regions of the border between Peru and Colombia. The Peruvian Health Minister is also considering the evidence provided in the paper to inform a policy change that will formalise the Mamás del Río programme throughout the region as part of the national health system.

This policy change will help build capacity and efficiency amongst community health workers and supervise the community workers in the field in a programme they need to improve maternal and neonatal health.

Blas believes that having an evaluation of her work published in a reputable and robustly peer-reviewed journal like BMJ provides credibility that can help influence the Peruvian government to consider implementing critical policy change. This change will promote better health systems by preventing diseases in Amazonian communities.

Image. Meeting at the Peruvian Ministry of Health to present the results of Mamás del Río.

“Having our research published in an important journal like BMJ shows evidence that our intervention is backed up by research. It also outlines the effect of what we are doing to improve the health of people in rural, remote and indigenous areas.”
Dr Magaly Blas

BMJ Innovations social innovations for health special supplement

The BMJ Innovations social innovations for health special supplement highlights some of the most important research work, concepts and practices in the area of social innovations in health. It also showcases the best available case examples where significant improvements in health outcomes have been made.

“The purpose of this special supplement is to spur the development and maturation of social innovation in health as an academic field and to broaden multidisciplinary collaboration to this end. Here, contributors describe and analyse the history, concepts, tensions and research evidence of community-engaged social innovations and related person-centred approaches. The overarching goal is to better understand how social innovations can be embedded in health education, training, research, policy, programmes and systems.

Ultimately, the special supplement will demonstrate how social innovation contributes toward a holistic approach to health and development.” Joseph Tucker, MD, PhD, infectious diseases physician and tenured Professor at UNC Chapel Hill with a special interest in social innovation and crowdsourcing.

“BMJ has very good people on the ground. They made it happen, and it worked.”
Dr Luis Gabriel Cuervo, Senior Advisor from an international organisation specialising in health, on his experience with working with BMJ to publish this collection.

Publications by Dr Magaly Blas

Reinders S, Alva A, Huicho L, Blas M. Indigenous communities’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and consequences for maternal and neonatal health in remote Peruvian Amazon: a qualitative study based on routine programme supervision BMJ Open 2020;10:e044197. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-044197

Moscibrodzki P, Li J, Peeling RW, et al. Halpaap B, Cuervo LG, Blas MM, Juban N, Labarda M, Tang W, Tucker JD. Social innovation in health: a critical but overlooked component of the COVID-19 pandemic response BMJ Innovations Published Online First: 18 June 2021. doi: 10.1136/bmjinnov-2021-000703.

Blas MM, Alva IE, Garcia PJ, Carcamo C, Montano SM, Mori N, Muñante R, Zunt JR. High prevalence of human T-lymphotropic virus infection in indigenous Women from the Peruvian Amazon. PLoS One. 2013 Sep 5;8(9):e73978.

Blas MM, Alva IE, Garcia PJ, Carcamo C, Montano SM, Muñante R, Zunt JR. Association between human papillomavirus and human T-lymphotropic virus in indigenous women from the Peruvian Amazon. PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e44240.

Blas MM, Alva IE, Carcamo C, Cabello R , Goodreau SM, Kimball AM, Kurth A. Effect of an online video-based intervention to increase HIV testing in men who have sex with men in Peru. PLoS One. 2010 May 3;5(5):e10448.

Blas MM, Canchihuaman FA, Alva IE, Hawes SE. Pregnancy outcomes in women infected with Chlamydia trachomatis: a population-based cohort study in Washington State. Sex Trans Infect. 2007;83:314-318.



Ginsburg O, Bray F, Coleman MP, Vanderpuye V, Eniu A, Kotha SR, Sarker M, Huong TT, Allemani C, Dvaladze A, Gralow J, Yeates K, Taylor C, Oomman N, Krishnan S, Sullivan R, Kombe D, Blas MM, Parham G, Kassami N, Conteh L. The global burden of women’s cancers: a grand challenge in global health. Lancet. 2017 Feb 25;389(10071):847-860. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31392-7. Epub 2016 Nov 1. Review. PubMed PMID: 27814965.

Reinders, S., Blas, M. M., Neuman, M., Huicho, L., & Ronsmans, C. (2023). Prevalence of essential newborn care in home and facility births in the Peruvian Amazon: Analysis of census data from programme evaluation in three remote districts of the Loreto region. The Lancet Regional Health – Americas, 18, 100404.

Cuervo-Amore LG, Blas MM. Innovaciones sociales para mejorar la salud. biomedica [Internet]. 2 de septiembre de 2022 [citado 21 de septiembre de 2022];42(3):422-8.Disponible en:

Limaye NP, Rivas-Nieto AC, Carcamo CP, Blas MM. Nuestras Historias- Designing a novel digital story intervention through participatory methods to improve maternal and child health in the Peruvian Amazon. PLoS One. 2018 Nov 5;13(11):e0205673. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0205673. PMID: 30396200; PMCID: PMC6218201.

Limaye NP, Blas MM, Alva IE, Carcamo CP, García PJ. The Amazon Hope: A qualitative and quantitative assessment of a mobile clinic ship in the Peruvian Amazon. PLoS One. 2018 Jun 21;13(6):e0196988. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0196988. PMID: 29927934; PMCID: PMC6013175.

“It was very useful to publish in BMJ how indigenous Amazonian communities adapted to the pandemic in the context of implementing our programme, Mamás del Río, which focuses on improving maternal and newborn care in the Peruvian Amazon. ”
Dr Magaly Blas

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