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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S.-México Border Health Commission launched its Healthy Border 2020 Initiative on Wednesday evening at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C.

Among those in attendance was Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Alejandro Estivill. “Estoy convencido de que esta iniciativa va a rejuvenecer, le va a dar muchos nuevos años a la Comisión de Salud,” Estivill said.

According to the authors, the Healthy Border 2020 Initiative comprises “measurable and bi-nationally relevant goals and objectives that bring together key regional partners to develop and support policy change and culturally appropriate, evidenced-based interventions that address public health challenges prevalent along the border.”

Among the strategic priorities are: chronic and degenerative disease, infectious disease, maternal and child health, mental health and addiction, injury prevention, transversal priorities, access to care, research, and strategic planning

“The Healthy Border 2020 Initiative addresses the dynamic public health challenges prevalent among binational border populations, marking the Commission’s second iteration of its border regional agenda on health promotion and disease prevention. This initiative was developed in alignment with the HHS strategic plan to address complex, multifaceted, and evolving health and human services issues,” its authors state.

Among those to speak at the launch of the new initiative was Cristina Rabadan-Diehl, director of the Office of the Americas in the Office of Global Affairs at the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

“Tonight marks a significant milestone in the history of the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission. We are not only celebrating the release of this Healthy Border report, but we are also recognizing the importance of public health in the border region and the Commission’s mission to provide our international leadership to optimize the health quality of life for border residents,” Rabadan-Diehl said.

Rabadan-Diehl discussed U.S.-Mexico border demographics and its challenges, such as its uninsured population, high unemployment, and high poverty levels. All of these factors, she said, contribute to diminishing health.

Rabadan-Diehl said the border region can serve as a source for identifying innovative models that can improve access to health care. “Healthy Border 2020 builds on the lessons learned from Healthy Border 2010 and focuses public health issues that are prevalent along the national border population.” She then gave an overview of the various components of the report.

“Now that we have this framework, we are counting on you and your friends and your stakeholders,” Rabadan-Diehl told those in the audience. “It is our responsibility to the border region communities to form now an implementation of strategy. It is our responsibility, all of us, all of the people on the border, all of the people here in Washington. It is our people. It is our responsibility. We need to start mobilizing our communities. We’ve already been doing it in the last fifteen years, but now even more so together we have to do it. We have a road map: Healthy Border 2020.”

The well-being of border communities has to be given the highest priority, Rabadan-Diehl said. “This is going to be a live document, this is just a road map, but the road that we walk, we will walk it together. For that, we really need you to tell us how to do that and what is the side we need to take. We can’t do this from Washington; we can’t even do this from the border. We need to do this in partnership. There a vast number of challenges in the U.S.-Mexico border, but we must remember that there are even a greater number of opportunities. That is the optimist in me.”

Lic. Hilda Davila Chávez represented Commissioner Dr. Mercedes Juan López, secretaria de salud de Mexico, at the event.

“Reconocemos en la frontera una vitalidad única en donde lo binacional es lo cotidiano  Cruzar la frontera, ida y vuelta, es cosa de todos los días. Lo que sucede en un lado de la frontera tiene un gran impacto en el otro. Que mejor ejemplo de ello que la salud publica,” Chávez said.

In an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian after the event, Rabadán Diehl said: “The Border Health Commission provides a forum for people to bring up the issues but for them to realize that we as the federal government do care about the region and to recognize that the power of us lies in the fact that we are a bi-national organization that really conveys the ten border states from the U.S. and the Mexican side, so we really operate as a unity. When we are dealing with those issues, we have those 15 million people in mind.”