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Healthy Border 2020 Embassy Launch

, by Luis Salicrup

The United States-México border region constitutes an area defined as 62 miles north and south of the United States-México border, approximately 2000 miles in length, and is considered the largest border region in the world. It includes 80 towns (municipios) in six Mexican states and 48 counties in four U.S. states. It is also a very challenging place when it comes to global health needs, as it  includes both non-communicable (particularly breast & cervical cancer, diabetes, etc) and infectious diseases, as well as mental, child, and reproductive health issues and a high incidence of trauma deaths and violence. In an attempt to address these pressing bilateral health issues, the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission launched the Healthy Border 2020 at the Mexican Embassy in the United States on June 24, 2015. This new initiative aims to strengthening what was accomplished on the previous plan of action entitled Healthy Border 2010.

The launch of Healthy Border 2020 was held at the Embassy of Mexico in Washington DC and was attended, among many others, by Ambassador Jimmy Kolker, Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Mexican Ambassador to the U.S., the Secretary of Health from New Mexico, Secretaries of Health from four Mexican states, as well as other HHS senior officers and senior representatives from the Mexican Secretariat of Health.  During the launch of Healthy Border 2020, the objectives, plan of action, and priorities for the Healthy Border 2020 were described, including a roadmap for its implementation in both countries.

The priorities defined reflect the work of a diverse group of public health professionals, academicians, and other border stakeholders and organizations that have been assembled to serve as a Border Technical Work Group, tasked with developing a strategic plan that border stakeholders can use to coordinate public health responses at the binational, state, and local levels.  HHS and the México Secretariat of Health, as integral components to the structure of the U.S.-México Border Health Commission, support this initiative with a common goal of eliminating health disparities and improving the quality of life of all border region residents.

I had the privilege of representing NCI/NIH at this meeting, and was pleased to see that one of the key areas of this initiative focuses on the burden of cancer, and seek to find methods for reducing breast and cervical cancer mortality. Thus, this represents another opportunity to enhance U.S.-Mexico collaboration involving NCI, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, American Cancer Society, and DHHS/OGA as border health issues is included as a priority in a binational agreement between HHS and the Mexican Secretariat of Health signed in 2014.

During the launch, I spoke with Dr. Rabadan-Diehl, Director of the Office for The Americas at the Office of Global Affairs, HHS, and Mr. Jose Luis Velasco, Executive Director of the U.S. Border Health Commission, HHS, about the fact that CGH is very much interested in providing support to the Healthy Border Initiative.  Dr. Edward Trimble, Director of CGH, has recently indicated his interest in visiting with me the Border Health Commission in El Paso, Texas to further discuss this initiative and where we can expand our current level of technical assistance provided to several Mexican institutions in the areas of cancer control, education and training, and building capacity through strengthening health systems.  By joining forces with partners on both sides of the border, we are, indeed, able to bring about a Healthy Border by 2020.

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