Physicians, Lawmakers Address Health Issues Along Border

The challenges of providing adequate health care along the Texas border with Mexico are as vast as the river that creates it.

Almost 3 million people live along the 1,200-mile border, one of the busiest international boundaries in the world. The area is marked by high poverty rates (almost 30 percent of the residents live below the poverty line), low education levels, and insufficient access to medical care, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services’ Office of Border Health.

To address the region’s serious health concerns, TMA’s Border Health Caucus in August held its annual Border Health Conference in Edinburg.

The conference focused on health care reform and the future, public health and infrastructure, and cross-border health issues.

TMA President Carlos J. Cardenas, MD, was there along with U.S. Reps. Filemón Vela (D-Brownsville), who cochaired the event, and Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen); Luis Benavides, MD, vice chair of the Border Health Caucus; and almost 100 health care, law enforcement, and business professionals. U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Pilot Point) gave an update on federal health care reform and the Affordable Care Act.

“Our hope is that by increasing awareness of the border and the health care issues that affect us, we can influence policy to reform the current system,” Dr. Cardenas said. “The region has made great advances in the past several years, and we continue to focus on keeping what works, fixing what’s broken, and eliminating what doesn’t work.”

Panel discussions focused on key themes that can help improve health care in the region:

  • Social determinants such as education level, ethnic makeup, and socioeconomic level have a profound impact on ability to access care.
  • Future medical education should be focused on team-based care, outcomes rather than processes, and emphasizing collaboration and accountability.
  • Identifying and preventing infectious disease in children are necessary to improve the overall health of the border.
  • Meaningful health care reform is possible through personal accountability for health and financing, coverage for everyone, and simplified funding and administration of programs.
  • Cross-border cooperation between health agencies is essential to preventing spread of disease across the border.

“The issues of health care are complex and changing virtually every day, especially on the border,” Dr. Benavides said. “We need more physicians … along the border, and we need to get out to where the people are, rather than the traditional visit to a centralized location or physician’s office.”

The June edition of Texas Medicine magazine focused on health care disparities throughout Texas, including the Rio Grande Valley. The September edition (with an accompanying video) highlighted The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, which is helping to improve the health of the Valley while nurturing a new generation of Texas physicians.

Last Updated On

September 18, 2017

Originally Published On

September 18, 2017

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