Collaboration on both sides of the border is needed to bring a national focus to border health care issues, according to a group meeting at The University of Texas-Pan American this week.
UTPA hosted the Border Health Research Agenda Council meeting Thursday and Friday, Feb. 7-8 in conjunction with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
The Council was created following an October 2000 meeting of academic institutions and health services involved in public health activities along the U.S.-Mexico border. Its mission is to improve the health and well being of border communities by assessing the needs for binational collaboration on research, mobilizing resources to implement a research agenda, and pursuing private and public funding.
"The focus is on how we can do collaborative research to determine what needs we have here and present important data," said Dr. Paul Villas, executive director of the UTPA Texas-Mexico Border Health Coordination Office (TMBHCO).
The numerous items discussed included identifying areas for border health research, electing board members and more.
"Diseases know no boundaries or borders," said Doreen Garza, TMBHCO assistant director. "It is of the utmost importance that we collaborate and take care of our border on both sides."
According to Garza, both countries are equally represented on the council. This includes federal, state, university and other health officials from Washington, D.C., the four U.S. border states - California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas - and the Mexican border states.
Research is being conducted in four areas: disease prevention and control; health and environment; health systems and human resources development; and health, society and development. The council meets every two years to assess progress in each research area and reviews the research agenda every four years.
"We want to reach an agreement on specific goals and have an elected group that will move this effort forward," Villas said.
"Right now, we have some broad areas, and we want to identify specific things to focus on. We'll also have follow-up meetings and continue working together."
The PAHO is an international public health agency working to improve health and living standards in the Americas. It serves as the regional office for the Americas of the World Health Organization and is internationally recognized as part of the United Nations system.
Dr. Guillermo Mendoza, health officer from the U.S.-Mexico Border Field Office of the PAHO, said UTPA's support to the Council has been invaluable.
"By hosting participating universities from both sides of the border, this projects UT Pan American as an academic institution concerned about border health issues and as a leader in solving those issues," Mendoza said. "This also is a good opportunity for the University to spread the word on its health research efforts."
For more information on the Border Health Research Agenda Council, contact Villas at 956/381-2115.