As COVID-19 cases increase, lawmakers call for increased cooperation to address emerging public health threats
Washington, D.C. – Amid rising COVID-19 cases, U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) led border state lawmakers in introducing the Border Health Security Act to strengthen multi-country cooperation to screen for infectious diseases and support vital public health initiatives in border communities. While millions of residents who live in border regions are citizens of different countries with independent public health infrastructures, these regions are highly interdependent with shared economic interests.
The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.). U.S. Representatives Veronica Escobar (D-TX) and Tony Gonzales (R-TX) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Border Health Security Act takes steps to ensure that the United States is prepared to address emerging public health crises and keep all Americans safe from threats to our biosecurity by fostering continued coordination of resources, effective communication, and information sharing between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. The United States-Mexico Border Health Commission has worked for two decades to address major binational health issues that strain the public health systems along the border, including infectious diseases. This bill provides important resources for the Commission and the Canada-United States Pan Border Public Health Preparedness Council to work with organizations along our borders to strengthen public health infrastructure.
“While COVID-19 cases around the globe continue to increase, the United States must work with Mexico and Canada to address emerging public health threats to keep our border communities safe and protected. Strengthening our coordination with Mexico and Canada will help address the unique challenges that border communities experience,” said Senator Luján. “This bicameral bill will boost our preparedness for future public health threats and help save lives across the United States.”
“We need to be prepared to mitigate infectious diseases at our nation’s borders, especially as we continue to urge New Mexicans to also get their COVID-19 vaccine,” said Senator Heinrich. “I am proud to introduce this legislation to reinforce cooperation and coordination with our neighboring nations and ensure our public health infrastructure can adequately respond to unique challenges in our border communities.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply impacted the economic vibrancy of the U.S.-Mexico border region and has exposed the unique public health challenges binational communities face,” said Congresswoman Escobar. “International collaboration has never been more important to fight this deadly virus and mitigate future infectious diseases. I am proud to introduce the Border Health Security Act to promote critical collaboration with our Mexican and Canadian neighbors and build on my efforts to protect and improve the health of El Pasoans.”
“Over this past year, the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the public health challenges and vulnerabilities that come from the close relationship with our neighboring countries,” said Congressman Gonzales. “This bipartisan legislation will improve coordination with Canada and Mexico to solve border health issues and address the spread of infectious diseases, creating healthier communities across our district.”
“The National Rural Health Association applauds Representatives Escobar and Gonzales and Senators Luján and Heinrich for their commitment to improving health outcomes on the United States-Mexico border. Enacting a comprehensive health care strategy is critical to ensure the diverse, rural population on the border is able to combat emerging disease threats such as COVID-19, the West Nile virus, and other non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and obesity. The Border Health Security Act of 2021 will help address these emerging threats by requiring members of the United States Mexico Border Health Commission to cooperate with the Canada-United States Pan-Border Health Preparedness Council to implement proven solutions and by allowing border health grants to be used to address longstanding epidemics plaguing this population. NRHA is committed to working with Congress to ensure this diverse, rural population has the tools needed to create positive health outcomes,” said Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Health Association.