World Health Day is celebrated every year on April 7, and this year’s theme is around diabetes awareness, prevention and scaling up treatment of the disease that affects 422 million people worldwide.

More than 50 years ago, PCI was founded in the U.S./Mexico border region. Since 2004, our US & Border Program (US&BP) has helped improve the lives of Latina women by reducing their risk factors for diabetes, stroke, heart attacks and cancer.

Poverty and lack of health insurance are nearly twice as high along the U.S./Mexico border as compared to the U.S. nationwide, and this is even more pronounced among Mexican immigrants.

Lack of health insurance coverage, in addition to language and cultural barriers, contributes to delayed care-seeking and late diagnosis of chronic conditions that disproportionately affects Hispanic populations, such as diabetes.

US&BP’s Ventanilla de Salud (VDS) program, which means “Window of Health,” is a unique collaboration between the Mexican Consulate of San Diego and PCI. The program provides health education and referrals to the thousands of visitors, primarily Hispanics of Mexican decent, who pass through the consulate’s doors.

VDS clinic

By leveraging the Mexican Consulate’s reputation as a trustworthy source of information, VDS has established an effective model for increasing access to health care for this vulnerable population of Hispanic immigrants.

The program’s combination of unique, culturally adapted approach allows its health workers to break through the misunderstanding, fear and cultural barriers that often keep members of this community from seeking preventive health care.

“I was feeling tired all the time and sometimes tingling in my hands and feet. It was becoming too hard for me to work, but didn’t know where to go and was afraid to go to the wrong place,” said Ramon Pineda, VDS program participant.

“VDS gave me a clinic where I could get free tests and then called me later to make sure that I got to the appointment. Because of VDS, I now know that I have diabetes and am getting regular help to control it.”

Due to the trust the program has earned for serving this community for more than 10 years, VDS has responded to ever-increasing volumes of individuals seeking information and support around comprehensive and broad-ranging health issues, from cancer and diabetes to substance abuse, mental health and domestic violence.

Veronica and family VDS

Veronica Gutierrez, VDS program participant, shared, “VDS taught me so much. In the short time I was there I learned how the way I was letting my family eat was very dangerous for our health. I also learned that we are at high risk for things like diabetes and heart disease. They gave me ideas, healthy recipes and things to take home and I’m sharing them with my friends.”