By Nidal Kram, Doctorate of Public Health in Maternal Child Health student; Rachel Barnett, Master of Public Health Student: Policy and Management; Micaela de la Rosa, Masters of Public Health Student: Public Administration
We spent most of Thursday visiting different organizations in Agua Prieta, Sonora. We toured the Hospital General and several of the outpatient clinics that they partner with to provide patient support services, we got to visit Café Justo and see how they roast the coffee beans that they bring in from their cooperatives throughout Mexico. We finished off the day with a convivio (hang out) with representatives from Frontera de Cristo, CREDA (a substance abuse treatment center), and Café Justo y Más (Café Justo’s local coffee shop). Although all of these organizations have different foci, they have all come up with creative solutions to meet the public health challenges they face and to improve the health and wellbeing (el bienestar) of their target communities. This makes these organizations key assets in the lucha (struggle) for improved health outcomes for border and migrant communities.
We were inspired by the efforts of these organizations and were forced to grapple with our assumptions about the efficacy of the Mexican health care system. The integration of Hospital General’s clinical and public health services illuminated a standard level of care that is arguably more holistic than that of the U.S. An example of this comprehensive approach is the operation of the chronic disease programs, which starts when a patient presents with hypertension, arthritis, diabetes or other chronic disease at the hospital at which point they are diagnosed, prescribed medication (if needed) and referred to an outpatient clinic. Upon arrival to the outpatient clinic patients are educated about and counseled for a three-year period to ensure patient understanding and control of their diagnosed conditions. Hospital General staff also go door to door offering vaccinations, doing chronic and infectious disease screening, then connects those who need it to primary health care facilities for further support. All services, from diagnosis, education, counseling and medication are offered free of charge.
The asset-rich communities in Mexico and specifically the border towns of Agua Prieta and Douglas, AZ astounded us with their creativity and dedication to a binational bienestar. UNDEX, a substance abuse rehabilitation center in Agua Prieta, Mexico offers low cost treatment for Mexicans and Americans alike. Simply put, Mexico offers treatment to the U.S.’s opioid crisis. The holistic view of care resides not only in the clinics of Mexico but also among local businesses. Café Justo is the David fighting against the economically draining Goliath of NAFTA. As a fair trade-plus coffee shop and roaster, their ingenious and dedicated business model gives the formerly impoverished coffee growers of Chiapas, Mexico the ability to stay on their farms and be paid 1500 pesos per bag as opposed to the 350 pesos per bag that became the rate of pay after NAFTA. Not only are these coffee growers offered an alternative to migration, they are also paid a living wage and offered retirement benefits. Café Justo is an example of an organization that is directly investing in economic stability and communal integrity, thereby promoting the overall health of communities on both sides of the border.
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