Border Health Network

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The Binational Border Health Network is a group of experts from 10 Border States contributing to the improvement of challenges facing public health conditions in the U.S.-Mexico border. Cecilia Rosales, MD, MS assistant dean, University of Arizona Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health will talk about the network.

JOSE CARDENAS: The Binational Border Health Network is a group of experts from 10 border states contributing to improved responses to the challenges posed by public health conditions on the U.S.-Mexico border. Here to talk about the network is Dr. Cecilia Rosales, assistant dean of the University of Arizona Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. Dr. Rosales, thank you for joining us this evening.

CECILIA ROSALES: Thank you for the invitation.

JOSE CARDENAS: Border health has always been an issue. In fact, there's a commission that has focused on this. Tell us why you and colleagues on both sides of the border decided that something more needed to be done.

CECILIA ROSALES: I think it's more about leveraging the few resources that exist along the border to do any kind of problem solving and especially research, because in order to problem solve, you need the evidence. So it's important to have a formalized group of researchers, academic researchers, along with other sectors which would include government and nongovernmental organizations and entities, that have an interest in solving the challenges that we face every day along the border. And so this funding is a way of formalizing that infrastructure.

JOSE CARDENAS: And the funding you were talking about is funding from the Mexico governmental entity?

CECILIA ROSALES: That's comparable to the national science foundation here in the U.S.

JOSE CARDENAS: And this led to meetings on May 5th?

CECILIA ROSALES: The first meeting of the technical work group, and it's actually the original seven individuals, academics, that put together the proposal, and then we responded to a response to an announcement, announcing these network grants. And so we responded as individuals. We work already together and so we came together, wrote the grant and it got funded.

JOSE CARDENAS: And what was the focus of the proposal? What did you say in there that made the Mexican government decide that it would use some of its resources to support this group?

CECILIA ROSALES: Well, they have funded various networks throughout the republic of Mexico but there wasn't one that was focused on the U.S.-Mexico border that would work financially so that's the uniqueness about this grant and about this award, is that its focus is working with two countries, two languages, two cultures, two ways of doing research really, as well. But also very different health systems.

JOSE CARDENAS: And yet in many respects and I've had other guests on the show who have said this, the border region itself is almost a third country. It's different than the other parts of Mexico, different than the other parts of United States. And I assume it has some unique health issues, as well.

CECILIA ROSALES: And it's also a very unique epidemiologic unit. The conditions along the border are very different from the rest of the population in the U.S. and the same thing happens on the other side. So the 10 border states have been working really for a very, very long time together through entities like the Arizona-Mexico Commission, but just recently -- it's only 15 years old, the commission, which is comprised of representatives from the 10 states, that's actually brought together many individuals, many entities, both governmental and nongovernmental to come together to look at those pervasive and salient issues.

JOSE CARDENAS: And what would be some examples of that? Are there particular health conditions that are unique or more severe along the border?

CECILIA ROSALES: One of the things we've done through the commission is to come together as two countries and 10 states to develop what we call healthy borders. So we've had a healthy border 2010 for the last decade and recently just launched the 2020 healthy border initiative and it's a health promotion agenda. And so it's coming together to negotiate what are the salient problems that we're dealing with on a day-to-day basis? And so we were able to negotiate that and just recently launched this initiative of healthy border 2020 in Washington, D.C. at the annual meeting of the border health commission. And so it really focuses, the 2020 really focuses on five general, very broad conditions. Chronic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity, very, very important and significant for both countries because we have such high incidence of diabetes in both countries. We compete with one another. And then we still have the infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis. We have high incidence of injuries, motorcycle and other unintentional types of injuries. And then the mental health issues and substance abuse issues which are very, very important in terms of you know, how it affects the population. We're talking about 15 million people along the border within the 10 border states and within this unit that we call the border.

JOSE CARDENAS: And I assume some of the reasons why there's this level of cooperation and shared interest is the fact that you have Hispanics on both sides of the border and diseases, for example, diabetes is more prevalent.

CECILIA ROSALES: It's more than Hispanics. You've got a very diverse population. You have tribal entities. There are tribal nations along the border, especially along California, just in Arizona alone you've got the Tohono O'odham nation, you've got the Yaqui nation, we've got others in the Yuma area, the Cocopah for example. So it's a very diverse group, it's not just Hispanics.

JOSE CARDENAS: Dr. Rosales, we're almost out of time. I know you've got a research conference, coming up. Tell us quickly about that.

CECILIA ROSALES: That's coming up in October. This network will be bringing together along in collaboration with the U.S.-Mexico border health commission, we're bringing together these researchers.

JOSE CARDENAS: And that will be in?

CECILIA ROSALES: It will be in Monterey in October.

JOSE CARDENAS: We'll have you back to talk about that and best of luck.

CECILIA ROSALES: Thank you.

JOSE CARDENAS: Thank you so much. And that's our show for tonight. From all of us here at "Horizonte" and Eight, thank you for watching. I'm José Cárdenas. Have a good evening.

Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station.

Cecilia Rosales:MD, MS assistant dean, University of Arizona Mel;Enid Zuckerman:College of Public Health

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