California, Mexico Launch ‘Binational Health Week’ to Promote Health Care for Migrant Workers
Last Friday, California and Mexico launched the first "Binational Health Week" to improve care for migrants and those living on the border, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports (Melley, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 10/13). Through Oct. 19, vaccinations and health screenings will be provided in seven California counties. Part of the California-Mexico Health Initiative, a program of the California Policy Research Center that is attempting to expand health services to Mexicans living and working in California, the health week will be held each year. The effort will be funded by $2.5 million in grants from The California Endowment, the California HealthCare Foundation and the state (California Endowment release, 10/12). For its part, Mexico has launched a program dubbed "Go Healthy, Return Healthy," which the Los Angeles Times reports will help migrant workers in their hometowns, along their travel routes and during their stays in the United States (Smith, Los Angeles Times, 10/17). There are 3.2 million Mexicans living and working in California (California Endowment release, 10/12).
Meanwhile, the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission met Sept. 15 in El Paso, Texas, to develop an agenda to "combat" the health problems of the 11.5 million people that live along the border, the Times reports. After acknowledging that health problems on the border are "real and immediate threats" that kill thousands each year, the two countries agreed on a 10-year plan to address health issues that "plague border communities and migrant workers." A study released Monday by the commission found that diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and hepatitis A are higher in the border region than nationally for both countries. In addition, rates of cancer, diabetes and asthma are higher along the border. The Times reports that HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson attended the meeting despite the ongoing "anthrax scare," signaling to the Mexican government that relations with Mexico would not become a "low priority" for the Bush administration due to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. At the meeting, Thompson told the commission he would try to secure an additional $25 million for border health projects if the commission could develop "specific, effective ways to spend the money." Participants in a workshop at the commission meeting, for example, discussed creation of a "binational tuberculosis card" that would allow patients to continue treatment in either country, as treatment interruption can lead to antibiotic resistance. Julio Frenk, the Mexican Health Secretary, said, "The ideal would be a well coordinated system in which we could say to the U.S. authorities: 'There goes a migrant who has tuberculosis. Care for him'" (Los Angeles Times, 10/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.