MCN Heads to Atlanta for Ventanilla de Salud Conference
[Editor’s Note: In the midst of a heated congressional election fight last month, MCN’s Leslie Diaz, Health Network Associate, headed to Atlanta, Georgia for the Ventanilla de Salud (VDS) annual conference, where over 60 representatives from across the nation gathered to share their insights as VDS outposts, housed within each Consulate General of Mexico. At VDS Austin, Leslie represents Health Network to increase health access for Austin-area Mexicans, their families, and surrounding communities. VDS, under the auspices of the Ministry of Health and the Institute of Mexicans Abroad, moves the conference to a different Consulate city each year. Here is Leslie’s take on this year’s conference.]
VDS coordinators are tasked with meeting directly with the community and connecting its members with the closest available health services for beneficiaries. Once a year, we get together to learn from each other. This national conference as per usual started with a tour of the local VDS office in the Consulate General of the hosting city. Atlanta's consulate conducts around 300 appointments daily as compared to the average 150 appointments in Austin, Texas. A review of the year revealed that approximately 1.6 million beneficiaries were served by the Ventanillas across America in 2016.
Each year the national conference highlights the specialty work of individual VDS offices. Through the fiscal agency of Emory University, VDS Atlanta had developed a project focused on basic child vision screenings, which they presented along with the basic materials for initiating such a project in each VDS. Then the entire conference transitioned to a focus on mental health with Dr. Silvia Moreles Chené's presentation on mental health in Mexico, followed by an introduction to activities fostering mental health in Miami through family engagement and artistic expression.
To conclude with gusto, the national group was whisked into an intense eight-hour training session on the National Council for Behavioral Health's project, Mental Health First Aid to help guide coordinators and community health workers to identify when VDS staff and clients could benefit from the involvement of a mental health professional. The weight of the theme was notable especially during interactive moments when examples from the field surfaced. The calculated inclusion of this theme was an important acknowledgment of the increase in pressure and change most recently felt by both our beneficiaries and health care professionals.
Keep up with Leslie’s work at VDS Austin through the Ventanilla de Salud Austin’s Facebook page. Visit the Ventanilla de Salud website to find your local VDS: http://ventanillas.org.