BY MARIO CONDE
The Mexican Consulate in Calexico inaugurated its annual health week where several organizations in the Imperial Valley join forces on both sides of the border.
General Consul Carlos Flores Vizcarra welcomed everyone to the opening ceremony that was held Friday, September 29, at the San Juan Diego Parish Hall at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Calexico. Several guests from Mexicali and Imperial Valley attended this event. They included Dr. Guillermo Trejo Dozal, Secretary of Health of Baja California, Pioneers Memorial Hospital CEO Larry Lewis, and Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia.
Binational Health Week has become one of the largest mobilization efforts in the Americas to improve the health and wellbeing of the underserved Latino population that lives in the United States. Federal, state and local government agencies, community-based organizations and thousands of volunteers come together in October to conduct a series of health promotion and health activities including workshops, insurance referrals, vaccinations and medical screenings.
The opening of BHW served also to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between for the epidemiological surveillance project for severe acute respiratory infections in the Mexicali and Imperial Valley regions. The MOU was signed by the Imperial County Health Department, the Secretariat of Health of the State of Baja California, and the School of Medicine of the Autonomous University of Baja California. The parties agree to collect, analyze, and process samples, the results of which will be entered into a database, and reports will be generated on a weekly and bi-weekly basis.
Danila Vargas, Interim Director of Imperial County Public Health, said this was the first binational MOU that will be working with the surveillance of respiratory pathogens. This will provide the opportunity to share information with Mexicali. Vargas said they will focus on influenza and other diseases such as rhinovirus, pneumonia, and pathogens that cause infection illnesses.
“The goal is to learn more about the viruses and the bacteria that is circulating so we know what is going on so we can have a better idea for prevention services and improving the overall health our community.”
Paula Kriner, Epidemiology Manager for the Imperial County Health Department, added that bi-national collaboration is important to identify pathogens that are circulating in the community that cause respiratory illness.
“It is a huge accomplishment to bring all those parties together to agree to collaborate on something that is important for all of our community,” Kriner said.
Elba Cornejo said that they will inform the hospital and medical groups in Mexicali about the singing of the MOU so they can send their samples to the Imperial County Health Department. Cornejo added that this help Mexicali hospitals improve their service since doctors will focus on the specific germ the patient has. Cornejo added this MOU formalizes years of collaboration between Mexican and U.S. health organizations that have collaborated in the study of infectious diseases such as rickettsia and the zika virus.