Binational Academic-Service-Community Partnership: A Program to Train, Provide Services and Conduct Research for Sustainable Community Health in Rural Baja, California, Mexico

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Alma I. Behar, PhD, MPH, Research Scientist Stephanie Brodine, MD, Professor Emeritus Richard S. Garfein, PhD, MPH, Professor John P. Elder, PhD, MPH, Professor Emeritus Lorena S. Pacheco, PhD, MPH, RDN, Research Scientist Esmeralda Iniguez-Stevens, PhD David A. Hernandez-Ontiveros, MScD, Professor Marianne McKennett, MD, Clinical Professor Linda S. Lloyd, DrPH, MPH, Consultant Orianna Bretschger, PhD, Founder Noe C. Crespo, PhD, MPH, Professor and Division Head Miguel A. Fraga, MD, MScD, Research Professor


Background: Viaje Interinstitucional de Integración Docente, Asistencial y de Investigación (VIIDAI) is a binational community health collaboration involving transdisciplinary education, field training, and research efforts that promotes health and provides services to underserved populations in rural Mexico, while also fostering cultural competency in medical and public health students from the Mexico-U.S. border region. 

Purpose: This paper describes the development and operation of the VIIDAI academic-community-service organization partnership and clinical and public health training program, and highlights the impact, challenges, road map, and powerful lessons of this binational effort.

Methods and Approaches: The VIIDAI partnership is a collaboration between San Diego State University, School of Public Health; Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Tijuana, School of Medicine and Psychology; University of California San Diego, School of Medicine; and Old Mission Rotary. Since 1998, VIIDAI has cooperatively implemented projects using a community-based participatory research approach, integrating community members with faculty, students, and health practitioners from the three universities alongside the Rotary to balance research and action for the mutual benefit of all partners involved. Epidemiologic investigations and interventions, health promotion, and clinical care are conducted with active community engagement during semiannual trips. Field activities are conducted in San Quintín, Baja California, Mexico within a rural, predominately indigenous community, targeting a variety of population-specific public health issues.

Results: Since its inception, over 3,300 faculty and students have participated in VIIDAI. The community has responded enthusiastically, with over 14,000 clinic visits and broad participation in health promotion interactions. These efforts have led to improvements in multiple indicators of community health, such as decreased prevalence of anemia; improved access to free potable water; increased numbers of students advancing to secondary schools; reduced family sizes and older age of first pregnancy; increased community interest and engagement in health issues and disease prevention; and increased visibility and empowerment among community leaders.

Conclusion: The success of the VIIDAI partnership can be attributed to five key elements: (1) stable, long-term leadership; (2) guidance from the host country; (3) equal partnership with the local community; (4) support from a non-academic service organization to help fulfill unmet needs; and (5) mutually beneficial involvement across all participants.

Keywords: Binational, transdisciplinary research, community-based participatory research, global health, cultural competency, education, population health

Article Details

How to Cite
BEHAR, Alma I. et al. Binational Academic-Service-Community Partnership: A Program to Train, Provide Services and Conduct Research for Sustainable Community Health in Rural Baja, California, Mexico. Medical Research Archives, [S.l.], v. 12, n. 3, mar. 2024. ISSN 2375-1924. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 13 apr. 2024. doi:
Research Articles


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