Women along the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border—within 100 kilometers, or 62 miles of the border—face many health disparities. More than one-third of families in the border region of the U.S. have incomes at or below the Federal poverty level. Because this population is likely to lack health insurance, access to health care is an important issue in this region. Approximately one-third of U.S. border residents reside in areas designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas for primary care.

The quality of the air, water, and soil in the border region is another area of concern that can particularly affect the health of women (especially women of childbearing age) and children. Many households in the region are not connected to sources of clean water. The high level of industry and agriculture creates exposure to potentially harmful pesticides and other chemicals. Although there are few sources of data on these problems, the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission has among its objectives to reduce the proportion of households without complete bathroom facilities—in 2000, 1.1 percent of households on the U.S. side of the border had no complete bathroom facilities—and to reduce the number of hospitalizations as a result of pesticide poisoning.

In 2000, women in the U.S. border region averaged 2.5 children during their reproductive years, which is greater than the U.S. national average of 2.1. Despite the greater number of children born on the border, only 73.2 percent of women who gave birth received prenatal care during the first trimester, and only 64 percent received adequate care with regard to timing and number of prenatal visits compared to 83.2 percent in the U.S. as a whole during the same year.

Infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B, are also more prevalent in the border region than in the general U.S. population. In 2000, the incidence of tuberculosis in the border region was 10.0 cases per 100,000 people, compared to 6.0 per 100,000 people nationally. The rate of hepatitis A was 11.0 cases per 100,000 people in the border region, compared to 4.9 nationally, and the rate of hepatitis B was 6.3 cases per 100,000 persons, in the border region compared to 2.9 nationally.

Graph: Pregnant Women Beginning Prenatal Care in the First Trimester[d]

Graph: Rates of Selected Infectious Diseases in the US-Mexico Border Area[d]