Border health issues and concerns were discussed Thursday, Aug. 23 during the U.S.-Mexico Border Summit at The University of Texas-Pan American.
Among the areas highly stressed was the educational future and health of children along both sides of the border. For former UTPA faculty member Dr. Paul Villas, that means educating young children now about the importance of being and staying healthy. Villas is executive director for the University of Texas System Texas-Mexico Border Health Coordination Office and was among eight panelists attending the border health issues session.
Villas focused on the current number of diabetes cases, which continues to grow across the Valley. He insists children should be guided into earning their high school diploma by staying in school, keeping healthy, graduating and learning a skill.
He also believes nothing insures health more than income.
"We have somewhere between 25 and 50 percent of our children in grades three, four and five pitter-pattering through our schools' hallways with high blood pressure and high cholesterol on their way to a multitude of health problems," said Villas.
"If our kids don't graduate healthy, they will not be contributing members of our society. Instead of putting into the pool, they will be taking out. The State of Texas can avoid a huge tax bill because poor health is a form of a hidden tax. You'll either pay with increased health premiums or you'll pay with increased taxes."
Other panelists included Russ Bennett, U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission executive director; Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, president of The University of Health Science Center at San Antonio; Hilda D. Chavez, Mexico director of bilateral and American regional affairs; Dr. Jesus Z.V. Perez, Secretary of Health for the Mexican State of Nuevo Leon; Dr. Luis Ortega, epidemiologist with the Pan American Health Organization-World Health Organization; Dan Reyna, director of the New Mexico Border Health Office; and Fernando S. Amor, executive director of the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission in Mexico.