AMA to discuss health issues on U.S.-Mexico border

Tomorrow, September 2nd, the American Medical Association’s Commission to End Health Care Disparities will meet in El Paso, Texas. Both Dr. Willarda Edwards, President of the National Medical Association, and Dr. Elena Rios, President of the National Hispanic Medical Association, will address the meeting. Having the conference take place in a U.S.-Mexico border town will highlight the health inequities suffered by the majority Latino population living in the border area.

According to the United States-Mexico Border Health Commission, there are some 12 million people living in the 32 border counties on the U.S.-Mexico border, running from San Diego County, California to Cameron County, Texas. Latinos comprise a little more than 52% of the population in this region. Three of the ten poorest counties in the United States are located in the border area, and twenty-one of these counties have been designated as economically distressed areas. Meanwhile, two of the ten fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country — Laredo and McAllen — are located on the Texas-Mexico border. (McAllen recently made headlines when a study found it to be the most expensive health care market in the United States.)

High rates of unemployment and under-employment, high poverty rates, and lack of health care insurance underlie the huge disparities in the health status of this population. Will the AMA commission step up to the plate and demand health insurance coverage for everyone in the border counties? I doubt it. They likely will rail against the deplorable health conditions along the border; yet, speak out against providing health insurance for undocumented workers — so-called illegal immigrants.

Health care is a human right, and all people — documented and undocumented — deserve it. We can’t begin to seriously address health disparities along the border without providing access to health care to undocumented workers.

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009 at 04:20