The New Mexico Office of Border Health liaises with various agencies and organizations at the state, national, binational and international levels with the express purpose of coordinating vertical (U.S. state to Mexican state), horizontal (among all U.S. border states) and Mexican states), and border-wide (the entire U.S.-Mexico Border Region) alliances and border health programming.
NM-OBH works closely with management and staff of the New Mexico Department of Health Public Health Southwest Region. The Southwest Region serves all the State’s border region, where one or more Local Public Health Offices are found in each county. This the border region includes almost all of the geographic area of Hidalgo, Luna and Doña Ana counties, and small portions of Grant, Sierra and Otero counties. NM-OBH coordinates a number of activities with Public Health Southwest Region including, but not limited to: health fairs, immunization events, emergency preparedness and response, infectious disease epidemiology and surveillance, and health literacy and promotion.
NM-OBH has established a vertical alliance with Chihuahua State Health Services to coordinate the implementation of a range of border health programs as agreed under the Agreement of Understanding to Improve and Uphold Public Health Conditions in the Binational Border Region of the States of Chihuahua, Mexico and New Mexico, United States of America that was signed by the Governors and Health Secretaries of Chihuahua and New Mexico on May 7, 2008 in Chihuahua City.
At the horizontal level, NM-OBH has forged partnerships with the Arizona Office of Border Health, Texas Office of Border Health, and California Office of Border Health. Efforts with these agencies include the development of: compatible communication; reporting and case management protocols for infectious diseases including tuberculosis; regional health emergency preparedness; professional development and training; and multi-state and border-wide multimedia health promotion and education initiatives.
The US-Mexico Border Health Commission is a unique binational entity that involves membership of the U.S. and Mexican federal health secretaries as commissioners, and member delegations from each of the six Mexican and four U.S. state health authorities. The Commission is made up of U.S. and Mexican Sections to facilitate implementation of Commission initiatives in each country and in binational partnerships. The full Commission meets once a year at alternating locations in the U.S. and Mexico. NM-OBH maintains a cooperative agreement with the Commission to carry out selected activities as prioritized by the Commission. Most of these activities are implemented in tandem with the other U.S. border states and especially in cooperation with New Mexico’s sister state of Chihuahua and West Texas. Some of these activities include Border Binational Health Week and National Infant Immunization Week./Vaccination Week of the Americas.
The Office of Global Health Affairs (OGHA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) represents the Department in all public health, health systems, and health technology matters with other sovereign nations and international organizations. OGHA is also the DHHS liaison with the private sector on international and refugee health issues and coordinates with other federal departments and agencies concerning international health. OGHA also develops policy and strategy positions related to global health issues and coordinates bilateral assistance programs with selected countries, including Mexico. Participation of DHHS on the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission is coordinated organizationally under OGHA, and is the contracting agency for the cooperative agreement that NM-OBH in concert with the Commission.
The U.S.-Mexico Border Health Association(USMBHA) was established in 1943 under the auspices of the Pan American Health Organization as a collegial professional organization to forge understanding and cooperation among public health and medical professionals and bring together people and institutions actively engaged or interested in binational health activities between the U.S. and Mexican States. The mission of the organization is to promote the improvement of the health and living conditions of the people of the United State-Mexico border by fostering a better understanding of health needs and problems; promoting public and personal health through mutual assistance, facilitating health education, and promoting environmental health. USMBHA intends to serve as a mechanism for communication and collaboration among federal, state, and local health authorities. A total of 14 binational health councils are organized under USMBHA. Council members are drawn from state and local health authorities, universities, health services providers, and research and advocacy organizations on both sides of the border. These councils are intended to serve as sister-city forums for prioritizing binational health issues and developing cooperative approaches for dealing with them. NM-OBH collaborates with USMBHA in attending and presenting professional papers at the Associations annual meeting, and especially in coordination and support of the El Paso-Juarez-Las Cruces and Columbus-Luna County-Palomas Binational Health Councils. USMBHA maintains its offices in El Paso, Texas.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is the regional office for the Americas of the World Health Organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C.. PAHO maintains a U.S.-Mexico Field Office in El Paso, Texas, to fulfill its mission to monitor and improve health and human development of the U.S.-Mexico border populations, disseminate information about health conditions to all governmental and non-governmental agencies involved in border health, and facilitate technical cooperation to these agencies and organizations as partners in efforts to maintain and improve the physical and environmental health conditions of border populations. The Field Office was established in the early 1940s, and it has been responsible for periodic health assessments, promotion of binational health education and health improvements in the border region since that time. NM-OBH has collaborated with PAHO on a series of different activities. The U.S.-Mexico Border Diabetes Project produced a survey of the prevalence of diabetes and pre-diabetic conditions in the border population, including New Mexico’s border counties, and is following up with a borderwide prevention and control program. The PAHO U.S.-Mexico field office also convenes and/or co-sponsors conferences and special events on such aspects as World Health Day, epidemiology, women’s and children’s health, chronic and infectious diseases, and environmental health. PAHO has established a comprehensive web-based information resource in its Border Virtual Health Library and has disseminated numerous publications on health conditions and health promotion strategies applicable in the border region. PAHO also maintains a Directory of Border Health Institutions, which is available at www.fep.paho.org.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) manages a nationwide system of health statistics and disease control surveillance, works to prevent and control disease outbreaks, and supports the development and implementation of best practices, evidence-based interventions, strategies, guidelines and protocols for disease prevention. CDC also supports national childhood immunization programs through grants and direct provision of vaccine to state and local health departments. Other CDC activities focus on shoring up public health preparedness and emergency response as well as workplace safety and environmental health. Internationally, CDC has a presence in over 25 foreign countries to control and prevent HIV/AIDS and promote early disease detection through improved surveillance. The agency operates 18 Quarantine Stations at major international U.S. airports and at the El Paso and San Diego border areas. NM-OBH works in tandem with the New Mexico Department of Health’s Epidemiology and Response Division to implement the CDC-funded binational Border Infectious Disease Surveillance (BIDS) (www.cdc.gov/ncidod/osr/site/surv_resources/surv_sys.htm) and Early Warning Infectious Disease Surveillance (EWIDS) (www.bt.cdc.gov/surveillance/ewids/ ) projects. Support for these activities is provided on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).EPA began a programmatic series of binational environmental protection collaborations shortly after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed, beginning with the five-year Border XXI program in 1996 and followed by the ten-year Border 2012 program. These programs are described in detail in Chapter 7 of this report, “Environmental Health Issues.” The EPA and Mexican Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) serve as national coordinators for the current program. Regional and thematic work groups determine priorities and make decisions concerning activities to be financed that address environmental issues in the border region. The program includes a competitive grants program to support initiatives under those priorities identified by the regional work groups. Programmatic goals under Border 2012 are to reduce water contamination, reduce air pollution, reduce land contamination, improve environmental health, improve emergency preparedness and response, and promote environmental stewardship. NM-OBH maintains it participation in the Texas-Chihuahua-New Mexico Regional Workgroup and the New Mexico-Chihuahua Rural Taskforce to deal with environmental health issues in the shared border region, with emphasis on air quality and water issues.
EPA published its State of the Border Region 2005 under this initiative, which tracks environmental indicators to chart progress in Border 2012 and related environmental health projects on the border. A critical element of the Border 2012 program is the development of 14 major sister-city partnerships between U.S. and Mexican municipalities to jointly plan and respond to environmental emergencies. The emergency-response plans developed in response to these sister-city agreements include involvement of emergency response personnel from both sides of the border. The plans provide policy mechanisms for facilitating the provision of mutual aid in responding to such events as large fires, chemical spills, or other emergencies, as well as joint activities in hazard identification, pollution prevention, risk reduction training, and provision of equipment. The first sister city emergency plan was signed in 1997 between Brownsville, Texas and Matamoros, Tamaulipas. The last of these proposed agreements was signed by mayors of the cities of Juarez, Chihuahua, El Paso, Texas and Sunland Park, New Mexico in July 2007. Parallel to Border 2012 and linked to NAFTA, EPA has also co-financed the planning and construction of approximately 150 water, wastewater, and solid waste management projects within the border region. The EPA is working to implement these projects through the Border Environmental Cooperation Commission and the North American.
NM-OBH has implemented several activities with funding provided under the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). SAMHSA has supported capacity building and awareness and education programs of community collaboratives, state and county health authorities, and advocacy organizations throughout the United States. SAMHSA’s support in the border region focuses on tobacco-use cessation and avoidance of tobacco sales to children, illegal drug use, abuse of commercially available pharmaceuticals, and underage and binge drinking. One such program is the Border Binge-Drinking Reduction Program, which aims to curb binge drinking by underage youths who venture from the United States into Mexican border towns, where the legal drinking age is lower and laws are more lax. Efforts under this program are coordinated with local law enforcement and U.S. Border Patrol to educate youths that cross into Mexico about the law and dangers of underage and binge drinking, and intercept and screen youths coming out of Mexico to test for sobriety. These efforts have also been coordinated with Mexican municipalities (for example, Tijuana and Juarez) that have established curfews to prohibit youths from accessing alcohol and other inebriating substances and walking the streets under the influence. SAMHSA has also funded borderwide substance abuse media campaigns in coordination with the Border Safe Communities Alliance and Rio Grande Alliance of Border Coalitions.