Mexico: Moving toward Equitable Health Care

Understanding Mexico’s health care system is particularly important for U.S. citizens because Mexico shares a long and permeable border with the United States. People routinely travel across the border in both directions for work or pleasure, bringing their diseases with them. In addition, both Mexicans and U.S. citizens sometimes cross the border to seek health care, although Mexicans more often travel north to seek medical care for life-threatening health conditions, and U.S. citizens more often travel south to seek inexpensive cosmetic surgery, dental work, or medical drugs.

Mexico has only recently entered the ranks of the more developed nations and still has much in common with the less developed nations. As Mexican in- dustry has developed, many people have moved off the land, and now more than three-quarters of Mexico’s population live in cities. Those cities contain both middle-class neighborhoods that enjoy health and living conditions similar to those found in the more developed nations and impoverished slums that lack such basic facilities as running water and sewer systems. These slums are inhabited primarily by migrants from rural areas. Rural areas, especially those inhabited pri- marily by indigenous peoples (similar to Native Americans in the United States), generally are poor, and around 40% lack sewer systems. GNI per capita remains only $17,740—considerably higher than in China but far lower than in the United States or in the European nations discussed in this chapter.

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