Mexicans who visit their consular office in Denver have access to free health screenings, information and referrals for low-cost treatment though the Ventanillas de Salud program of the Mexican government and the American Diabetes Association.Accessing the health care system in this country can be difficult for anyone, and for immigrants with limited English and no documents, it’s nearly impossible.
With the goal of helping their nationals living in the United States find low-cost preventative health care, the Mexican government has opened 14 miniature health offices inside consulates nationwide. La Ventanilla de Salud (Window to Health) was recently made a permanent feature inside the main hall of the consulate in Denver, where every day it is visible to hundreds of people with time to spare as they wait their turn in line.
“As an immigrant myself, I saw the need in our community for information about health and the system in this country,” said Julissa Soto, director of Por tu Familia, the Latino initiative of the American Diabetes Association, a primary sponsor of the Ventanillas de Salud program.
Denver’s Ventanilla has a modest spread in the back of the always crowded consular hall, but thanks to corporate donations, it will soon have its own space. For now, a few tables are lined up, staffed by at least two medical clinicians armed with glucose testing materials and information in Spanish about diabetes, nutrition and dental care. People in need of treatment are referred to community or government agencies that offer low-cost care to the uninsured.
“If people have better education about health issues and they know about prevention, they can get the help the need and not end up in the emergency room,” said Adriana Valdes, spokeswoman for the Mexican Consulate in Denver.
Mexican Americans are 1.7 times as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites of similar age, according to the National Institute of Health. Roughly 2.5 million — nearly 10 percent of all Latinos aged 20 and older — have been diagnosed with the disease.
Preventing and living with diabetes is a health care priority for the people who visit La Ventanilla de Salud, but Soto says she always gets lots of questions from people struggling with anxiety and depression.
“A lot of us really miss home. We may be acculturated, but it comes with a lot of uncertainty and frustrations,” she said.
Miguel Ortega, 31, passed by La Ventanilla de Salud Thursday as he waited at the consulate. Married with two small children, Ortega and his wife don’t have health insurance. He was excited to learn about Clinica Tepeyac, a nonprofit medical office in north Denver that offers anything from cold care to a colonoscopy for the uninsured.
“The most important thing is that I have someplace to take my family if they get sick,” Ortega said. “Up to now I just thought it was impossible to get health care without insurance.”