The U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Anthony Wayne, announced this week the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s continuing commitment to working with the Mexican Secretariat of Health in developing health initiatives that will benefit both nations. According to Wayne, the cooperation between the two nations in developing public health programs has been very productive in the past. As illness is not contained on either side of the two thousand mile U.S.-Mexico border, it is important for these two countries to work together to combat contagious disease. However, Ambassador Wayne argued that binational health programs have also been successful in combating non-communicable diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
Public health authorities working at the Arizona-Sonora border in many ways exemplify the necessity of working across the fence, when it comes to protecting the health of border area residents. In Cochise County, in particular, public health officials have created the Binational Border Health Program, an international initiative coordinated by both the Cochise County Health Department and the Sonora Ministry of Health. This program serves to address a number of border health concerns, including environmental health, maternal health, substance abuse, and the spread of communicable disease.
The news media frequently brings stories to the public concerning the contentious relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. We hear about the failure of the two countries’ governments to work together to stop violent drug cartels. We hear about the ways in which U.S. immigration policy continues to drive a wedge between these two countries’ peoples and their governments. We hear about free trade programs that too often benefit U.S. elites at a severe cost to the Mexican people. We hear quite a lot about the need to build an impenetrable fence, permanently separating the North from the South.
However, in quite a lot of ways, the U.S. and Mexico are inextricably linked. And there are quite a lot of people reaching across the border in order to accomplish amazing things. Just like public health authorities have joined hands across the international border in the service of accomplishing a shared task, so too are Mexicans and U.S.-Americans working together in protecting the environment, in developing binational education programs, in creating art, and in doing charitable and activist work. It is important to acknowledge the ways in which these two countries are working together, especially during times when so many forces seem to be tearing them apart.
This is the first in a five part series of articles discussing the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. View additional parts here: part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.