The US-Mexico border has developed under challenging circumstances characterized by accelerated population growth in urban areas; extensive industrial and agricultural development; increased ground transportation, migration, poverty, social inequities and informal human settlements. The resultant growth in these areas has taxed current resources creating inadequate conditions in many regions to provide: clean air, sufficient drinking water; adequate water quality; proper treatment of domestic and industrial waste water; disposal of hazardous solid waste; or proper management of pesticides. Coupled with insufficient investments in environmental and health infrastructures, these environmental conditions have not improved sufficiently to keep pace with the rapid development.
The identification of the effects on human health from environmental alterations and the relationship of the processes to increased risk of disease and death, continue challenging investigators and health service providers, especially in the area of research investigation. In the case of environmental health, the relationship between cause and effect are especially complicated given the diversity of the contaminants and their sources, multiple exposures, lifestyles, as well as the other factors that contribute to the development of disease. These multiple factors necessitate the creation of different conceptual frameworks and methodologies than those applied in other areas of an investigation, such as in the case of environmental health indictors.
In November 1999, the US and Mexican governments assigned PAHO with the task of developing environmental health indicators as part of its collaborative work with Border XXI. The successor plan, Border 2012, has placed further importance on the development of indicators to better reflect improvements in environmental quality and conditions in the border region. The Border 2012 Environmental Health Workgroup (EHWG), and in specific The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have continued to be major sponsors of PAHO’s efforts. The establishment of the Border Indicator’s Task Force (BITF) in the spring, 2004 has further demonstrated a substantive commitment to the development, validation and implementation of border indicators. The BITF, EHWG and PAHO have now formed a partnership to strengthen these efforts.
The PAHO field office in El Paso (PAHO-FEP) has conducted a number of activities since 1999 with the ultimate objective to create a guide that could articulate the solutions for environmental and health problems. PAHO-FEP initiated the work of defining bi-national environmental health indicators (EHIs). This process began with the development of the Environmental Health Indicators Concept Document (PAHO, 2001. See document at http://www.fep.paho.org/english/env/Indicadores/IndSA.htm ) and has continued through the coordination of workshops along the border to identify and create consensus on the best health indicators for the border.
The EHWG of Border 2012 has decided to concentrate their initial efforts on human exposure and health indicators that may change in response to improvements in air and/or water quality, or in response to other environmental actions such as clean up at waste tire sites (e.g., removal). These focus areas and indicators have been decided through the establishment of teams looking at data availability and quality along the whole border. PAHO now seeks to continue this effort through the award of financial resources (grants) to support pilot project investigations in these areas to validate indicators hat are able to reflect changes in public health with changing environmental quality.
United States - Mexico Border Field Office,
Established in El Paso, TX. since1942
5400 Suncrest Dr. Suite C-4
El Paso, TX. U.S. 79912
FAX: (915) 845-4361