The Mexican Consulate in Albuquerque awarded $35,908 to the UNM Cancer Center to fund Ventanilla de Salud, or Health Window, an innovative partnership designed to provide New Mexican Hispanics with culturally relevant health information and referrals to low-cost providers.

"We are very pleased to continue our partnership with the Mexican Consulate," said Cheryl Willman, director and chief executive officer, UNM Cancer Center. "As the official cancer center of New Mexico, the UNM Cancer Center is committed to delivering world-class care to all New Mexicans. This partnership is helping us reach our state's large and vibrant Hispanic/Latino community to provide potentially life-saving cancer education, prevention and early detection."

"We are delighted to carry forward Ventanilla de Salud in New Mexico, and grateful to the UNM Cancer Center for their collaboration," Mexican Consul Mauricio Ibarra Ponce de León  said. "This program is critical for the health and well-being of the Mexican and Hispanic/Latino community in New Mexico."

A track record of success

Ventanilla de Salud, also known as VDS, is a collaborative effort of the UNM Cancer Center and the Mexican Consulate. Launched in 2008, the program provides health education and assistance that is culturally and linguistically appropriate for New Mexico's diverse Hispanic/Latino community. In 2009, an additional VDS mobile site was added at El Paisano supermarkets in Santa Fe, increasing access for Northern New Mexicans.

Since Ventanilla de Salud's launch, more than 30,000 New Mexican Hispanics have benefited from potentially life-saving health information. The program focuses on four main areas of disease prevention and health promotion to encourage VDS clients to become active participants in their own health: cancer education and prevention, diabetes management, clinical trials education and tobacco cessation. Of particular note, Ventanilla de Salud facilitates the teaching and distribution of a fully translated Spanish version of the National Cancer Institute's "Cancer 101" curriculum, a gold standard of cancer education. The VDS program coordinator and primary educator, Mónica Toquinto, was named the 2010 Community Health Worker of the Year by the New Mexico Community Health Workers Association.

The Ventanilla de Salud partnership between the UNM Cancer Center and the Mexican Consulate in Albuquerque was one of the earliest programs of its kind in the U.S. Other VDS sites have since opened at Mexican consulates around the country. Ventanilla de Salud in New Mexico remains a model for VDS programs nationwide; it has been recognized twice at international VDS gatherings for its innovation and excellence. In August, the UNM Cancer Center will host the national Ventanilla de Salud conference, with participants from all 50 Mexican consulates and from Mexico.

Commitment to community partnerships and outreach

The UNM Cancer Center has a long history of outreach to all of New Mexico's multiethnic and multicultural communities. Its Office of Community Partnerships & Cancer Health Disparities, directed by Barbara Damron, reaches more than 12,000 New Mexicans across the state each year through its community service activities, educational programs and community-based participatory research projects. Ventanilla de Salud is managed through this office.

"Lowering cancer rates in high-risk populations and reducing cancer health disparities among New Mexico's multicultural and multiethnic communities is an essential part of the UNM Cancer Center's mission," Damron said. "By providing empowering health information and referrals to low-cost providers, Ventanilla de Salud is helping us carry out that mission and make a difference in the Hispanic/Latino community."

The program has a multiplier effect, Damron added. "The success of Ventanilla de Salud has been integral to our efforts to attract national funding for addressing cancer health disparities in New Mexico," she said. "We're able to leverage the program's service and achievements to draw in even more resources to further improve the health knowledge – and health – of Hispanic New Mexicans."

Consul Ibarra emphasized that "through this preventive health program, the Consulate of Mexico, partnering with the UNM Cancer Center, is achieving one of its priorities in terms of directly supporting the health needs of the Mexican and Hispanic/Latino community in New Mexico."

Media contacts:
Dorothy Hornbeck, JKPR, (505) 797-6673,
Rae Ann Paden, UNM Cancer Center, (505) 925-0480,