U.S.-Mexico Commission Addresses Border Health Concerns
In response to the high rate of tuberculosis infection along the 2,000-mile United States-Mexico border, the "newly formed" United States-Mexico Border Health Commission intends to "launch a pilot program" next year for a "binational" program allowing tuberculosis patients to receive treatment on either side of the border. The Dallas Morning News reports that 200 people gathered in El Paso on Nov. 27 for an "inaugural" meeting of the 26-member commission, which will be a forum for discussion and a "funding mechanism" for improving the "quality of life" along the border. Tuberculosis infection is among its chief concerns, with the rate of tuberculosis along the border three times higher than the U.S. national average. In 1997, 32% of the 19,851 cases of tuberculosis reported in the United States were documented in the four states along the border. That year, 23% of Mexico's 23,575 tuberculosis cases were reported in its six border states. In addition to high tuberculosis rates, the rate of diabetes in the region is three times the national average, with cancer, hepatitis A, measles and mumps all showing "significantly" higher rates along border states and causing concern to health officials. Russ Bennett, executive director for the U.S. section of the commission, said, "It's important for people to realize that health is not just a border problem. With the freedom of migration we have, anyone with an infectious disease could carry it across the border -- in both directions."
Commission Provided for by 1994 Legislation
The United States-Mexico Border Commission stems from legislation sponsored by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) and approved six years ago. The legislation provided for the creation of an "entity" to perform "comprehensive-needs assessment" and take action to resolve "existing or potential problems" along the border. The commission is comprised of 13 members from each country, who are nominated by U.S. and Mexican governors from the 10 border states. Since the commission's approval in 1994, the United States has contributed more than $5 million for its use. Members meet several times a year and sponsor "community meetings" at several locations along the border to identify organizations and programs in need of financial, technical or administrative support (San Martin, Dallas Morning News, 11/28).