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Binational Health Week: Ventanillas de Salud Give Opportunities for Health, Online and In-Person

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A person receives a vaccination at the BHW event

Earlier this month, on a warm Saturday in the cafeteria of an elementary school in Austin, Texas, dozens of families lined up, masked and distanced, and waited for their turn for a free eye exam. Young children as young as three were seated next to volunteers from the local Lyon’s Club. Family members received insurance and health information and school supplies from Superior Health Club, Blue Shield, and Dell Children’s Medical Center, who also had exhibits. This event, which gave eye exams and vouchers for free glasses to 126 locals, was just one of the many events to kick off Binational Health Week, an initiative of the Mexican government to improve the health of Mexican nationals and other Latinx community members living in the US.  While the focus is on one week, in reality the celebration continues throughout the month of October.

“All this month, we have different agencies that we will be hosting at the Mexican Consulate,” explained Roxana Pineda, MPH, Ventanilla de Salud Coordinator and Health Network Associate with Migrant Clinicians Network, and Jimena De Leija, Promotora de Salud, who organized these events for Binational Health Month in Austin.  Ventanilla de Salud is a network of health outreach program operating out of each of the Mexican Consulates in the US; MCN is the fiscal agent for the Ventanillas in Austin, Del Rio, and Eagle Pass, Texas. Because of COVID-19, the festivities are spread out over the month, rather than concentrated in one large health fair as in previous years. Some activities, like the eye exams, required preregistration. And many of the events have been moved online.

Woman receives materials from informational desk

“We’re hosting informational sessions on Facebook Live,” entirely in Spanish, Pineda said, adding that the benefit of the online forum is the ability to watch the recording after the event. “So, when you have time, you can go and watch it. In fact, a lot of people watch it afterwards.”

Ventanilla de Salud Austin’s Facebook page already has archived informational sessions “like one moment with your brain”, which informs parents on the impact of trauma and “fight or flight” on a child’s ability to learn and absorb new information, with the Austin Independent School District; on the dangers of underage drinking, with Travis County officials; and on food and climate change, with the Sustainable Food Center. Because the sessions are online, the events are cross-promoted by Ventanillas outside of Austin, including in Eagle Pass and Del Rio, where MCN also serves as fiscal sponsor. Additionally, the Ventanilla de Salud Del Rio partnered with the Guatemalan Consulate in Del Rio to offer a Facebook Live seminar on psychosocial care to vulnerable populations. The Ventanilla de Salud Eagle Pass offered one on chronic disease, in partnership with UT Health. And there are more info sessions to come.

A pink bus used for medical exams

Additional in-person events include numerous no-appointment and no-cost pop-up vaccination events at the Austin Mexican Consulate, where vaccines for both COVID-19 and the flu are offered. In Austin, a special pet-centered event will provide information on pet vaccines and give away free pet tags, with the Austin Animal Center on October 22nd, and on October 29th, the National Kidney Foundation will provide free kidney tests at the Austin Consulate. Many of the events, as with the online seminars, are only possible because of partnerships with local organizations, including Austin Public Health, Central Texas Counties Vaccine Collaborative, United Health Care, CommUnity Care, Central Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Austin Public LIbrary, Acess Dental, SAFE, Austin Community College, Las Comadres para América, Lone Star Circle of Care, Mr. Natural, Truis Bank, Empower, Healthy Families Travis County, Underage Drinking Prevention Program, Superior Healt Plan, Dell Children’s Healthplan, Project Access, Chase Bank, El Buen Samaritano, Maximus, Saber es Poder, Parents in Parenting, Sunshine Life & Health Adviser, Latinitas, The Source, Big Pink Bus, Alcoholicos Anónimos, Rent Assistance, Baylor Scott & White, Mama Sana, Amhiga HIspana, National Kidney Foundation, PNC Bank, Ascension Seaton, and WIC.

Visit the Facebook pages of each of the Ventanillas to learn more about upcoming events for the remainder of Binational Health Month:

  • Ventanilla de Salud Austin
  • Ventanilla de Salud Del Rio
  • Ventanilla de Salud Eagle Pass
  • Learn more about Binational Health Week here.

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