EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Some 200 El Paso residents got free health screenings, flu and COVID-19 booster shots Tuesday at the Mexican consulate. It was part of Binational Health Week, which for the past 22 years has bridged the gap between local health providers and the immigrant community.

“Basically, what we do here is take their blood pressure, offer different tests so if they have any problems, they can be referred to low-cost clinics or hospitals or we can help them navigate the insurance system,” said Consul General Mauricio Ibarra Ponce de Leon.

Twenty-one El Paso hospitals, nonprofits and insurance companies are partnering with the consulate to promote healthy living. The El Paso Food Bank donated 200 boxes with food staples that were distributed to participants in a Tuesday health fair in the consulate’s parking lot.

Ibarra said talks about cancer, high blood pressure, mental health and others would take place throughout the month in Spanish online and in-person at the consulate. The U.S. Census July 2021 population estimate shows that nearly one in four El Paso County residents were foreign-born, and that 69.8 percent speak a language other than English at home.

Those numbers make the consulate a key player in community health education.

“We need to raise awareness of the importance of having good physical and mental health and that everybody knows they can reach out to a health provider regardless if they have insurance or not,” Ibarra said.

All of Mexico’s 50 consulates in the United States are observing Binational Health Week, though some may have it on a different date.

Maria Estrada (Border Report photo)

Maria Estrada, a Mexican national who says she has lived in El Paso for many years, was among the first in line at the screening tents. “I’m here for the tests, medical insurance information, everything they have here,” she said.

Others came for the flu and COVID-19 shots and the free foodstuffs.

“This is the first time I come to these fairs. I came here for the flu vaccine. I have all the COVID vaccines and all,” said Ana Lilia Perez.