The Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the Institute of Mexicans Abroad and the consulate of Mexico in Albuquerque, and in collaboration with the Mexican Ministry of Health and the University of New Mexico Cancer Center, will host this year's annual Ventanilla de Salud Conference. Ventanilla de Salud is an innovative partnership administered through the Mexican consular network in the United States that provides health care education, access and referrals. In New Mexico, the UNM Cancer Center and the Mexican consulate have collaborated through the program to provide screening, diagnoses and treatment as well.

This year's national conference is at the UNM Cancer Center Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 23-25. It marks the first time the conference will be held outside of Mexico. The relationship between the Mexican consulate in Albuquerque and the Cancer Center is one reason the conference, which takes two years to organize, is being held here, said Maria Otero, UNM director of community outreach for Hispanic/Latino programs.

The conference features bilingual presenters including high-ranking Mexican officials such as Javier Díaz de León, Institute of Mexicans Abroad executive director, who will address current issues in harmonizing preventive health practices and provide training on specific health issues. Participants have the "opportunity to share learning and experiences," Otero said.

The Mexican government values the Ventanilla de Salud program because it directly benefits the well being of the Mexican and Hispanic communities nationwide in the U.S., said Mauricio Ibarra, consul of Mexico in Albuquerque.

Researchers will have the opportunity to collaborate. "We talk about future research we can do. We compare our ongoing research and look at hypothesis-driven research that we can do in the future," said Barbara Damron, director, Office of Community Partnerships & Cancer Health Disparities, which manages the Ventanilla de Salud program.

Since its inception, the Ventanilla de Salud program has reached between 10,000 and 11,000 people annually in New Mexico with potentially life-saving information and screening. "We're unique in that we have combined the outreach, education and partnerships with research within our communities," Damron said. The research looks into disparities in health care for Hispanics and Latinos in New Mexico, "so the money stays focused on that population."

The conference organizers aim to strengthen the cooperation between health institutions and Mexican Americans as one of the best ways to improve the development opportunities of Mexicans abroad.

Media Contacts: Dorothy Hornbeck, JKPR, (505) 340-5929, email: dhornbeck@jameskorenchen.com or Michele Sequeira, UNM Cancer Center, (505) 925-0486, email: msequeira@salud.unm.edu