The mission of One HEART is to save the lives of women and children, one birth at a time. Saving the lives of Tibetan women and their children is of utmost urgency for the survival of the Tibetan people and culture. Improving maternal health and reducing child mortality have globally been recognized as vital to promoting development and eradicating poverty, as set out in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. The Tibetan society is one of the few in the world where there is no tradition of trained birth attendants. Poor nutrition, lack of trained health personnel, long travel distances, and limited access to emergency care place Tibetan women and infants at high risk of birth-related deaths. The vast majority of births take place at high altitude, in a cold environment, and without access to electricity or health care. More than 95% of Tibetan women give birth at home. Most babies are delivered with the help only of the mother or the mother-in-law whose sole assistance is the cutting of the cord. "It's not uncommon for babies to die from basic things like not cleaning their mouth out to breathe," says Samen. "In surveys we've done, more than 50 percent of babies that died were born alive. This is due to lack of education." Amazingly, many Tibetan women deliver their babies completely on their own.
One HEART (Health Education and Research in Tibet) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, established in 1998 under the umbrella of the University of Utah Health Sciences Center, after Maternal-Fetal Medicine division members returned from a visit to the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) of the People's Republic of China (PRC). This visit sought to address the very high maternal and infant morbidity and mortality rates and took place at the invitation of the Lhasa City Municipal Hospital and the TAR Health Department. Initial efforts were well received and officials invited One HEART to collaborate with the TAR Health Bureau in an ongoing advisory capacity.
One HEART began with the Skilled Birth Attendant (SBA) program after finding that Tibet had little tradition of skilled birth attendants. This program immediately began showing results, with safer births occurring in the communities where One HEART was working. Soon after the success of this program became evident, One HEART began developing the PAVOT program, or Pregnancy And Village Outreach in Tibet, to pass safe birthing messages to rural areas.