El Paso pediatricians fill a gap by volunteering care for asylum-seekers along the Texas border. What started as a local way to address the health care needs of this growing population is gradually turning into a statewide and national network.
Read the Feature story in Texas Medicine.
Just as they did several years ago, Texas physicians stand ready to volunteer their help as the federal government addresses an influx of thousands of migrant children and their families at the United States-Mexico border.
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine has largely dispensed with lectures and focuses more on group learning and practical experience. This and other innovations dovetail with the school's focus on public health, which is vital in a region notorious for high poverty and chronic health problems.
The status of health care along the U.S.-Mexico border is the canary in a coal mine for the rest of the United States. The 33-county region tops the nation’s charts for its high rates of residents who live in poverty or are uninsured, obese, diabetic, or have other chronic health care challenges and worries about long-term care. The demand for health care far outstrips available supply and access. The region has one of the lowest rates of physicians per capita to care for its sick, promote healthy behaviors, and prevent disease.
Physician leaders along the border from El Paso to Corpus Christi as well as San Antonio united in 2001 to establish the Border Health Caucus (BHC). Their mission: to ensure lawmakers in Austin and Washington, D.C., understand the unique health challenges facing the 1,250+-mile border region and improve access to care for its more than three million residents.
Fifteen years ago, BHC doctors fought relentlessly for and passed landmark legislation that has helped recruit and retain physicians to the region. As a result, more patients are getting the quality care they need, when they need it. But much more work remains.
One hundred percent of the Texas border region is designated as both a Health Professional Shortage Area and a Medically Underserved Area.
Variation in population density can make access to health care a challenge for some, as physicians tend to work in more populous urban centers. For instance, El Paso County has a population density of 791 people per square mile, while Brewster County has 1.5 people per square mile. These two graphics illustrate just how expansive the Border region actually is.
And the need for access to quality health care in a timely fashion is immense. Consider these statistics: More than 1.1 million people in the border region are recipients of Medicaid, accounting for 25 percent of Texas’ entire Medicaid population.
More than 84,000 children in the border region rely on the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) for healthcare, accounting for seven percent of the state’s entire CHIP population.
More than 800,000 people in the border region are recipients of Medicare, accounting for 20 percent of the state’s Medicare population.
The Border Health Commission and the Border Health Caucus work together to improve healthcare on both sides of the border.
Bexar County Medical Society
Big Bend County Medical Society
Cameron-Willacy County Medical Society
El Paso County Medical Society
Fort Duncan Regional Medical Center
Hidalgo-Starr County Medical Society
Kleberg-Kenedy County Medical Society
Maverick County Medical Society
Nueces County Medical Society
Tri County Medical Society
Val Verde County Medical Society
Webb-Zapata-Jim Hogg County Medical Society
Got questions about Border Health? Contact the Knowledge Center.