/////A Match Made in … Cuernavaca, Mexico
A Match Made in … Cuernavaca, Mexico 2018-01-05T09:18:29+00:00

SEPT. 15, 2006 | Katharine Stewart, Ph.D., M.P.H., and Eduardo Ochoa Jr., M.D., were still excited two weeks after an official visit to Cuernavaca, Mexico.

The two representatives of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health met with leaders of a newly accredited school of public health – the Instituto Nacional de Salud Publica – about potential collaborative research, and student and faculty exchanges.

Stewart, associate dean for academic affairs, concluded that “It was a match made in heaven.”

“Everyone was surprised to discover how many programs we have in common,” said Ochoa, assistant dean for minority affairs.   

When the Mexican school became accredited, its leaders put out a call to other accredited schools of public health expressing an interest in developing collaborations with one or two other schools. College of Public Health Dean James M. Raczynski, Ph.D., quickly responded to their request because of Arkansas’ fast-growing Hispanic population, which is made up mostly of first-generation immigrants from Mexico and Central America.
Arkansas has seen a 48 percent increase in its immigrant population between 2000 and 2005, and about 70 percent are presumed to be from Mexico.

“Our thinking is that collaborative research, and faculty and student exchanges can help us gain a better understanding of the public health issues encountered by our Latino population in Arkansas and enhance our ability to meet their public health needs here,” Raczynski said.

Stewart and Ochoa already have specific research projects in mind for collaboration with the Mexican school. Stewart will begin research on immigration’s effects on reproductive health, which includes sexual behavior and sexually transmitted diseases. Ochoa said his initial focus will be on nutritional and cardiovascular risk factors for immigrant women who come to the United States and return to Mexico.

“Those are areas where we can bring to bear expertise in community-based methods that we share with INSP (Instituto Nacional de Salud Publica),” Stewart said. “We have a lot of expertise in health policy and health economics and health systems. We have a lot of folks here who are skilled in behavioral science and can bring that expertise to bear as well.”

Ochoa said he can foresee studies of health behaviors, such as exercise, diet and smoking, as well as how culture affects what people understand about health when they arrive in the U.S.

“We have a health care system that is altogether different than the one in Mexico,” Ochoa said. “I think it would help both the population here and the people who provide services to know and understand those cultural differences.”

In the meantime, Ochoa and Stewart are meeting with faculty after compiling a list of the collaborative areas that are of particular interest to the Mexican school’s faculty.

“We’ve identified some faculty here at the college whom we think might be good starting points for brainstorming about how we might collaborate,” Stewart said. “The other major step is to set up infrastructure to allow student exchanges.”