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Binational Health Week celebrates 20 years

Binational Health Week (BHW) started 20 years ago as a week-long celebration but over the years has become a month-long series of activities each October.

“Over the last 20 years, Binational Health Week has become one of the largest mobilization efforts in the Americas to improve the health and well-being of Latino immigrants living in the United States and Canada,” says Liliana Osorio, MPH, director of UC Berkeley School of Public Health’s HealthInitiative of the Americas, one of the primary partners that produces the event.

“During the entire month of October thousands of volunteers and representatives of government agencies and community-based organizations come together to conduct health promotion and health education activities including workshops, insurance referrals, vaccinations and medical screenings, in a culturally and linguistically sensitive way,” Osorio says.

According to the Pew Research Center, there were just under 59 million Americans who identified as Hispanic in 2017. Thirty-three percent of this population was born outside the U.S.

Every year, about 300,000 people, most of them Spanish speakers and many of them uninsured, benefit from the BHW activities. This year, outreach will focus on mental health, chronic diseases, women’s health, COVID-19 prevention, nutrition, and access to healthcare.

The outreach is especially important this year. “In 2020, Latino communities in the United States have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Osorio. “This has been exacerbated by several anti-immigrant government measures that create barriers for access to health services. For those reasons, initiatives like BHW are even more relevant to address Latinos health needs and achieve the goal of equitable access to health care.”

Other BHW partners include the governments of Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru, along with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a number of state and county health departments, and the Council of Mexican Federations in North American.