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United States-Mexico Health Stories

United States and Mexico Strengthen U.S.-Mexico Binational Health

Two government officials sign a declaration while sitting opposite of one another.

Mexico Secretary of Health Salomón Chertorivski and US Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sign a declaration adopting shared guidelies for public health events. Nils Daulaire, Director of the Office of Global Affairs, stands next to Secretary Sebelius. Seated to the right of Dr. Daulaire is CDC’s Center for Global Health Director, Dr. Kevin De Cock.

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Mexico Secretary of Health Salomón Chertorivski announced a series of new steps to strengthen health security cooperation between the two countries. The health secretaries outlined these efforts during a meeting coinciding with the 65th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 22, 2012. “The United States and Mexico have had a long and close relationship in supporting and improving our ability to respond to public health events and emergencies of mutual interest when they arise,” Secretary Sebelius said. “The trade links between our two countries, our common border, and the high degree of trade in food products speak to the need for close bilateral cooperation in health security for both of our nations.”

The two health secretaries signed a declaration formally adopting a shared set of technical guidelines that both countries will follow to respond to public health events affecting both countries. The Technical Guidelines for United States-Mexico Coordination on Public Health Events of Mutual Concern are accessible from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (DGMQ) in the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID). The guidelines complement the International Health Regulations, which call for neighboring countries to develop accords and work together on shared epidemiologic events and public health issues. The Center for Global Health and DGMQ led the development of the guidelines through close collaboration with counterparts in Mexico, and support from the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

A plaque is presented to Mexican official.

HHS Secretary Sebelius and Dr. Kevin De Cock, CDC’s Director of the Center for Global Health, present Mexico Secretary of Health, Salomón Chertorivski, with a plaque welcoming Mexico as a member of CDC’s Laboratory Response Network.

Secretaries Sebelius and Chertorivksi also signed a renewed agreement between the United States and Mexico that strengthens existing bilateral food safety cooperative activities. This arrangement recommits the two countries to communicate on food safety and to identify areas for coordination and collaboration between several U.S. and Mexican agencies—HHS, through its Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Agriculture in the U.S.; and the Secretariat of Health and Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food in Mexico.

Finally, Secretary Sebelius presented Secretary Chertorivksi with a plaque welcoming the Mexican Secretariat of Health’s National Institute of Epidemiological Diagnosis and Reference as a member of CDC’s Laboratory Response Network, which is managed by the Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections (NCEZID). This achievement is a result of Mexico’s upgraded capabilities to respond quickly to acts of biological terrorism, emerging infectious diseases, and other public health threats and emergencies.

Building Cross-Border Public Health Partnerships

Hugo Lopez-Gatell, MD and Marty Cetron, MD in a meeting.

Hugo Lopez-Gatell, MD, Mexico’s former Director General of Epidemiology and Marty Cetron, MD, Director of the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine within CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at a BTWG meeting held in February 2011.

“The formation of this work group has enabled public health authorities from both countries to engage in timely, meaningful deliberations on health issues.”

Marty Cetron, MD, Director of CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine

The United States and Mexico enjoy one of the most important binational relationships in the world. The two countries share a 1,969-mile border and are deeply connected economically and culturally. More than 30 million people of Mexican origin live throughout the United States, and approximately 300 million northbound legal crossings take place from Mexico into the United States annually. Additionally, about 15 million Americans visit Mexico each year, and more than 1 million Americans live in Mexico. The sheer number of people who live, work, and travel between the United States and Mexico has led to a sharing of culture and commerce as well as health issues, particularly infectious diseases.

To address these health issues and increase public health coordination between the United States and Mexico, the Binational Technical Work Group (BTWG) was established. The group, spearheaded by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (DGMQ), brings together key public health professionals each quarter to discuss how to deal with public health priorities.

CDC and Mexican public health officials meet to discuss collaboration on recent outbreaks and laboratory issues. “It is always best, regardless of culture or language, to meet your collaborators face-to-face to ensure ongoing partnerships and understanding,” noted David Swerdlow, MD, founding member of the BTWG and Senior Advisor from CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease.

The BTWG meetings help increase coordination, communication, and technical assistance for public health issues. Dr. Celia Alpuche-Aranda explained, “BTWG allows us to align all [our] projects…and budgets to optimize human resources and funding to better achieve our goals. This favors a much better understanding of the epidemiologic surveillance systems in both countries that facilitate collaborative efforts in joint outbreak investigations and policy decisions.”

Participants from both Mexico and the United States said that the BTWG meetings have been a resounding success and that they look forward to stronger relationships between their two countries as a result of the group.