Vida National Hispanic Health Leadership Award
Willard Hotel, Washington DC
Dr. Jane L. Delgado, President and CEO, National Alliance for Hispanic Health,
Gov. Bill Richardson, Governor of the State of New Mexico,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honored to receive the 2010 Vision, Innovation, Dedication and Advocacy Award (VIDA) from the National Alliance of Hispanic Health, the nation's oldest and largest network of Hispanic health and human service providers.
I am particularly encouraged by the fact that the Alliance, with its rich network of community-based members, has decided to recognize with this Award the efforts of the Government of Mexico to empower Mexican communities in the U.S. and enhance their well-being by promoting greater access to health care.
As many of you are aware, the hallmark of our strategy towards buttressing the health of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. is the Health Window Program (Ventanilla de Salud). A truly collaborative model, involving Mexican Consulates and local health-providers and organizations, this program was created to provide Mexican and Latino communities with information about health-related services available in their neighborhoods, to evaluate their health needs and, most importantly, to promote inclusive approaches for disease prevention and public health.
Given that Mexican immigrants are, on average, younger and healthier than the adult U.S. population but, unfortunately, are also less likely than other population groups to have a regular health care provider, we have focused on prevention strategies that will help them to stay healthy and, consequently, able to keep contributing to the prosperity and well-being of this country.
Today, María, a mother of two in Dallas, registered her U.S. born kids in the Children’s Health Insurance Plan of Texas; Jaime, a cook and father of three, received free flu shots in Little Rock, Arkansas along with one hundred more Latinos; and right here, in our DC Health Window, Don Eulalio was diagnosed with first stage diabetes and will follow up his treatment at a community clinic, after having a blood pressure and needs assessment exam performed inside our consulate. The lives of María, Jaime and Eulalio, and of so many of our nationals that had nowhere to go for health care before are being improved by the daily work of 44 Health Windows across the country.
And although the core value of this model is the establishment of the Health Window on our consular premises, thus reinforcing the element of trust and credibility of these health interventions, we literally thought “out of the box” along with our local partners, and created Mobile Health Units in nine cities to reach out and better serve migrant workers.
Altogether, two million people have received preventive health related information since we began this program in 2003, and by early next year, all of our 50 Consulates in the U.S. will have a Health Window, thanks to the 3 million dollars being invested in this program.
But we are not stopping there. A new component added this year to the operation of Health Windows, is the ability for Mexican immigrants in the U.S. to affiliate themselves and their families to the Seguro Popular, a publicly funded health insurance that allows access and comprehensive health coverage in Mexico.
And we could not have done all this —including the Binational Health Week that has just reached its tenth year in 2010— without the support and cooperation of our partners, be they health agencies or local advocacy groups. 350 local agencies are now cooperating with in-kind resources, specialized personnel, examinations and educational sessions to the Health Window program. Thanks to all of them!
But our work is far from over. Our two nations face similar public health challenges. Obesity and diabetes are not only a major public health concern in the U.S.; in recent years, the prevalence of obesity in Mexico has also increased at alarming rates. With intense transborder social networks and converging lifestyles, diseases such as obesity and AIDS have become intertwined and interdependent public health challenges for Mexico and the U.S. Therefore, we need to continue working to reinforce our record of successful collaboration in confronting transnational public health priorities. And we already have a great track record. Last year, our two countries worked together in effectively addressing the H1N1 pandemic. Through a transparent handling of the situation and real-time, close collaboration at the technical, scientific, policy and public advocacy level, Mexico and the U.S. jointly managed to minimize the spreading of this virus and to mitigate human losses.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I firmly believe that these actions truly exemplify Mexico’s approach of shared responsibility towards the construction of orderly and safe immigration flows in North America and to promote prosperity and well-being in the region as a whole.
But when we think of common challenges we need also to work together to debunk the myth that migrants are a burden to public services such as healthcare or education. Migrants not only receive less primary care and are less likely to use emergency rooms than us citizens, but study after study shows that even insured immigrants have lower medical expenses than U.S.-born citizens with similar characteristics. Ultimately, most immigrant workers pay taxes, regardless of their immigration status, and even undocumented immigrant workers contribute enormously to the social security trust fund and have historically shared in their fiscal responsibility for health care.
On behalf of all those program coordinators, promotoras de salud, health educators, Mexican consuls, community leaders and partners who have helped us to create a network of Ventanillas de Salud to serve and empower Hispanic population, I accept this recognition and reiterate my commitment for an enhanced promotion of innovative solutions that may jointly benefit our communities.