16th Annual Binational Health Week Kicks off in Calexico

Rite Aid Pharmacist K.J. Park Lee keeps busy during the Binational Health Week ceremony with numerous attendees who lined up to receive the flu shot.

CALEXICO — The Mexican Consulate in Calexico in collaboration with the Health Initiative of the Americas and local health agencies from Imperial County and Baja, California, kicked off the 16th Annual Binational Health Week Friday morning at the Juan Diego Parish Hall. At the event, community residents received information and education on the importance of health care.

Since its inception, Binational Health Week (BHW) has evolved into one of the largest mobilization efforts in the Americas to improve the health and well-being of the under-served Latino population that lives in the United States and Canada.

Carlos Flores Vizcarra, Consul General of Mexico in Calexico, explained that BHW is coordinated through Mexican Consulate booths named Ventanillas de Salud, who provide information of treatment and prevention of chronic and physical diseases such as diabetes. The Ventanillas de Salud program refers all people to health institutions, regardless of their immigration status in the United States.

“It’s impressive to see the tremendous amount of work that Ventanillas de Salud has achieved with the community here in the Imperial County,” said Vizcarra. “We need to remember that without health, there is no future.”

Among the agencies represented were Pioneers Healthcare District, Imperial Valley Food Bank Cal Fresh Program, Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo, Imperial Valley LGBT, Rite Aid Pharmacy, Neighborhood House of Calexico, Molina Healthcare of California, Instituto Nacional de las Personas Adultas Mayores, Planned Parenthood and the American Cancer Society.

“This is the first time I’ve attended, and it’s impressive to see the numerous resources available to us elderly people,” said Gabriela Torres, a Calexico resident. “I don’t get around much because I don’t drive, so having all of these resources in one place makes it very convenient for me.”

During BHW, federal, state and local agencies, community-based organizations and thousands of volunteers across the county come together during the month of October to conduct a series of health promotions and health education activities including workshops, insurance referrals, vaccinations and medical screenings. Binational Health Week prioritizes topics that are relevant to the Latino community which include infectious diseases, chronic diseases, gaining access to health insurance, mental health, and women’s health.

“Thanks to the participation and leadership of the consular networks of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia and Peru, Binational Health Week has expanded to other countries such as Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina and Spain,” said Vizcarra. “It’s important that Imperial Valley residents know the numerous resources available to them.”

In 2015, close to 1,800 health activities were organized, including health fairs, conferences, classes, and sporting events, with a total attendance of approximately 325,600 people.

Those present had the opportunity to check blood sugar levels and blood pressure as well as receive flu shots offered by Rite Aid Pharmacy.

“I always say I’m going to go get the flu shot and I never get around to it,” remarked Carla Silva, a Calexico resident. “I finally got it, thanks to this wonderful event. I am glad the Consulate is thinking about us older people and arranging stuff like this.”

Throughout the month of October, BHW will be promoting health fairs in various Imperial County cities.