Border Health Program Press Release - Doctors of the World

Border Health Program Press Release


EL PASO, TX, October 2022 – In an effort to provide more than just basic emergency care to migrants and asylum seekers at the border, the Border Health Program (BHP) launched this month. BHP is a new program led by Doctors of the World USA (DotW) in partnership with Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso), and local organizations operating border shelters. BHP offers migrants at the border transitional medical care, uses data to advocate for public policies that will better address their health needs and reduce burdens on local health systems, and provides medical students with learning opportunities that will serve as the foundation for research and curriculum development focused on migrant health. 

In recent years, a growing number of migrants and asylum-seekers have been crossing the US-Mexico border. According to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), 234,088 migrants crossed in April 2022, topping March’s 22-year high of 221,444. Lamentably, most shelters and CBP facilities lack sufficient accommodations, staffing or procedures to thoroughly assess migrants’ health needs, resulting in dangerous medical oversights. 

Based on DotW’s exploratory missions to the US-Mexico border, and supported by findings from external reports, there is a dire need for both medical care AND rational public policy regarding access to healthcare for populations in transit at the border, particularly as numbers of asylum seekers entering the US continues to increase. Issues that DotW and other BHP staff encounter include migrants with chronic conditions (i.e. diabetes, asthma, seizures, and high blood pressure) having their prescription medications confiscated by CBP; many migrants who survive dangerous desert crossings suffering from dehydration and other heat related health risks; border wall injuries; and women suffering sexual violence en route to the US, along with 5% of men and 50% of gay and transgender individuals. Additionally, the number of women migrating to the US and crossing the southern border is growing: women represented an estimated 35% of migrants in 2019, up from 14% in 2012. 

Each partner’s role within BHP is distinct and leverages their respective areas of expertise. As a global expert on migrant and refugee health, DotW serves as the institutional link between border shelters and TTUHSC El Paso, focusing on building shelters’ capacity, providing administrative and financial support, and conducting evidence- based advocacy to promote sound public health policy and best practices. TTUHSC El Paso provides the workforce with faculty, residents, and medical students staffing the clinic. And our local partners provide the primary clinical sites and, when necessary, overflow sites.

Doctors of the World (DotW) USA is the US chapter of the global Médecins du Monde (MdM) network, an international health and human rights organization made up of 17 chapters around the world working on both domestic and international health projects. Founded in 2011, DotW USA provides emergency and long-term medical care to vulnerable people — wherever they are. They strengthen people’s access to quality medical services, and fight for universal access to healthcare by advocating for sound evidence- based public health policy.