BORDER HEALTH: Plan To Create New Office Passes First Hurdle
The California Assembly Health Committee passed a bill yesterday to "create a state office to combat contagious diseases that occur at high rates along the U.S.-Mexican border." The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the bill would create a "state office of border health [to] collect, analyze and disseminate information about health problems, improve communications with the Mexican government and coordinate the efforts of health agencies already working on improving border health." In addition, the office would create "plans for preventing, treating and tracking infectious diseases," as well as "issue public health alerts when problems such as contaminated water or industrial spills develop." The bill now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Controlling The Spread
California currently "has only one person monitoring border health matters, a nurse on loan to the state from San Diego County." There is currently no state office "empowered to deal with the Mexican government or the federally sponsored U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission." State Rep. Denise Moreno Ducheny (D-San Diego), the bill's sponsor, said that the creation of a special office "would serve as a 'clearinghouse for information' and give California a stronger voice in setting policies with Mexico." San Diego alone receives 100 million border crossers annually, according to Ducheny, some of whom bring with them contagious diseases such as measles, hepatitis A and tuberculosis. Officials state that these diseases "occur at higher rates in the border regions of California than they do in the rest of the state and nation." Ducheny said "that her bill is not just about border health but about improving the health of all Californians." Both "New Mexico and Texas have state border health offices" (Ainsworth, 3/18).