New window for health for Mexicans in the Southeast

By Pam Auchmutey | Health Sciences Update | Sept. 26, 2014

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Results from the Ventanilla de Salud (VdS) survey will be used to compare rates for chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease with other Mexican populations.

The Rollins School of Public Health (RSPH) recently signed a partnership agreement with Atlanta's Consulate General of Mexico for Rollins faculty, staff, and students to provide consulate visitors with health education and service linkage through a program called Ventanilla de Salud (VdS), or a Window to Health.

The majority of people of Mexican origin who live in this region are under 40. Keeping this young population healthy is at the heart of the new effort.

The program has a large target audience. On average, more than 1,000 people visit the consulate each week to renew passports and other personal documents. VdS will reach additional people served by the consulate's mobile unit, which travels weekly to towns in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee and also serves about 1,000 people per week. The region comprises one of the largest Mexican Consulate jurisdictions in the country.

This summer, four students from public health, nursing, and the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico are doing summer practicum experiences at the consulate to provide health education and referrals for clinical services and sources for health insurance. They are working with the program director, RSPH alumna Brianna Keefe-Oates, to develop a survey to capture health data on consulate visitors.

Karen Andes

Karen Andes

"It's a big job," says Karen Andes, VdS director and RSPH faculty member (global health). "We want to collect data to describe this population in comparison with major health surveys in the United States and Mexico."

Results from the VdS survey will be used to compare rates for chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease with other Mexican populations. The survey also will help determine what proportion of Mexican nationals and their families have access to health insurance, by immigration status. As Andes notes, gathering health information on undocumented populations is difficult, in part because people come and go quickly and prefer to stay under the radar regarding their status.

VdS builds on the success of the Latino Health Summit held two years ago at Rollins. The summit was sponsored by the Hispanic Health Coalition of Georgia and marked the release of the 2012 Georgia Latino Health Report, prepared by Andes with a team of Rollins students. The report was funded by the Healthcare Georgia Foundation and documented the health status and outcomes of Georgia Hispanics based on publicly available data. In time, the health data generated by the VdS survey will help expand health reporting to other states.

"I see VdS as a tremendous opportunity," says Andes, "to bring students together in all the health sciences—public health, nursing, the physician assistant program, medicine, and physical therapy—to strengthen our capacity to work with the Latino population in the Southeast."