What is it about?

In many countries, international border regions are places of intense cultural, economic and social exchange. Think about the millions of people crossing each year the Mexico-United states border, or the hundreds of thousands border crossings between Malaysia and SIngapore. One of the reasons why people cross international land borders is to get better, less expensive or alternative health care that they can't access in their country of residence ("medical tourism"). However, we found that in the Guatemala-Mexico border region, the group more likely to use health care across the border are not "medical tourists" Guatemalans who work in Mexico, most of them in agriculture or construction. Their main reason for seeking care were wounds and accidents, probably work-related.

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Why is it important?

Previously, cross-border health care use has been described mostly as "medical tourism", in which people who has the means to do so takes advantage of health services in other countries. However, in the Guatemala-Mexico border area, where economic development is limited and the percentage of population living in poverty is high, according to our results cross-border health care is more a matter of necessity, with what are likely work-related injuries the predominant health need. However, the majority of care in this group was sought in private services, even if workers are entitled to health coverage according to the Mexican law.


Our research shows that the Mexican health system should consider the health needs of people who live in Guatemala and cross to Mexico for work. Agricultural workers' health needs are not being met, and this a problem of both public health and social justice.

Ietza Bojorquez
El Colegio de la Frontera Norte

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This page is a summary of: A characterization of cross-border use of health services in a transborder population at the Mexico-Guatemala border, September–November 2021, PLoS ONE, February 2023, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0282095.
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