Aid groups aim to bring health care to migrants on way to US

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A woman seeking asylum in the U.S and waiting in Mexico, is tested at a clinic in Matamoros, Mexico, Nov. 17, 2020. A humanitarian organization led by U.S. military veterans has treated thousands of migrants over the past year at two clinics in a Mexican town across the border from Texas. But Global Response Management is attempting to go beyond mere crisis response and build a system to make it easier to track the health of migrants along their journey from Central America. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

MATAMOROS – Aurora Leticia Cruz has tried to keep up with her blood pressure medication since fleeing Guatemala more than a year ago, but the limbo she finds herself in — stuck in a sprawling camp at the Texas border after traversing Mexico — has made that hard.

When Cruz felt woozy on a recent day as her blood pressure skyrocketed, it could have ended in tragedy, leaving her 17-year-old granddaughter and two great-grandchildren under 3 alone in the camp in Matamoros. But instead, a nurse practitioner from Oregon and a Cuban doctor, who like Cruz is awaiting U.S. asylum proceedings, were able to pull up her medical record and prescribe the correct dosage.

The health care workers who helped Cruz are with Global Response Management, a nonprofit that is attempting to go beyond mere crisis response and build a system to make it easier to track the health of migrants along their journey from Central America to the U.S. border. Cruz's medical record was created in June by the group, which has been collecting patient information.

“I envision this as a relay race in which we are passing the medical baton to other providers as people work their way north,” said Blake Davis, a paramedic from Maine who volunteers for the organization.

The efforts are part of a growing trend in humanitarian aid that has accelerated amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has highlighted the difficulties in getting basic health care to migrants. With public hospitals overwhelmed by virus cases, migrants with heart conditions or problematic pregnancies have nowhere to go. Others have been prescribed ineffective medications because a changing array of doctors are forced to treat them without any medical history.

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The Associated Press produced this story with support from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reporting about responses to social problems.

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