Crossing the Border for Health Care

Access and Primary Care Characteristics for Young Children of Latino Farm Workers Along the US-Mexico Border

Published in: Ambulatory Pediatrics, v. 3, no. 3, May-June 2003, p. 121-130

by Michael Seid, Donna Castaneda, Ronald Mize, Mirjana Zivkovic, James W. Varni

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OBJECTIVES: To examine prevalence and correlates of cross-border health care for children of Latino farm workers in counties near the US-Mexico border and to compare access and primary care in the United States and Mexico. METHODS: Two hundred ninety-seven parents at Head Start centers in San Diego and Imperial counties were surveyed regarding percentage of health care received in Mexico and the United States, access, and primary care characteristics. RESULTS: More than half of all health care was reported as received in Mexico. Reasons for Mexican use revolved around cost, accessibility, and perceptions of effectiveness. Parents of insured children reported slightly more US care, yet even this group reported approximately half of health care in Mexico. Insurance status was related to having a regular source of care, while uninsured children reporting most care in Mexico were less likely than uninsured children in the United States to have had a routine health care visit. Primary care characteristics were related to insurance status and source of care. Uninsured children reporting most care in Mexico fared better in some aspects of primary care than uninsured children reporting most care in the United States and as well as children with insurance receiving care in the United States or Mexico. CONCLUSIONS: Children of farm workers living along the US-Mexico border, almost irrespective of insurance status, receive a large proportion of care in Mexico. Especially for uninsured children, parent reports of Mexican care characteristics compare favorably with that received in the United States. Mexican health care might be a buffer against vulnerability to poor health outcomes for these children.

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