School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Arizona Offers Free Health Services to Vulnerable Residents in Pima County

The University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission (BHC) have expanded a program that started in Phoenix to Pima County, where it is bringing health care to underserved residents while giving public health students experience working in the community.

[Photo from left to right: Ms. Camille Gonzales, an MPH student from the UA Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and Ms. Yvonne Mei, an undergraduate student in the nutritional sciences program.]

The program, “Juntos Por la Salud,” or Together For Health, offers free health services via a mobile health clinic that travels to communities where there are a large number of people who are not insured or are underinsured.

The Mexico Section of the U.S.-Mexico BHC pays for costs related to the mobile health clinic, which is operated by the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health. Students from the UA College of Medicine – Tucson, Zuckerman College of Public Health and College of Nursing are trained to perform and deliver health-screening services to patients in the Primary Prevention Mobile Health clinic.

The mobile health clinic focuses on screening for and prevention of six diseases and risky health behaviors, including cardiovascular disease; diabetes and obesity; tobacco; alcohol and drug abuse; cancer; and sexually transmitted infections. Mental health screening services recently have been added.

“This is an excellent example of training an interprofessional team of students from the health sciences in community health,” said Dr. Cecilia Rosales, associate dean and professor of the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health – Phoenix Programs. “The Primary Prevention Mobile Unit provides not only service to community, but research opportunities that can translate into viable interventions as well as inform decision makers on public policy.”

The mobile clinic launched in Phoenix in April 2016 and the Tucson program followed in April of this year. Dr. Rosales reports that the mobile clinic has helped more than 2500 residents in Maricopa and Pima counties to date.

“The mobile clinic is an invaluable asset and a mechanism for reaching a large population of uninsured and underinsured residents who are unaware and uninformed about services available to them. As a U.S.-Mexico border state with a high concentration of Latinos, it is important to work towards increasing access to care, health information, health education, and referral services, thereby building a culture of health and healthy communities,” said Dr. Rosales.

In Tucson, the mobile health clinic provides screenings, health education, and referral services to residents. It also offers health sciences students the opportunity to learn firsthand.

“Being Latina myself, working with the Latino community in Tucson has given me much pride,” said Ms. Camille Gonzales, a second-year student in the master of public health program. “Volunteering for Juntos Por La Salud has been a truly rewarding experience. People from many different backgrounds have come to the mobile health clinic wanting to improve their health and the health of their families.”

Ms. Gonzales says that volunteering for the mobile clinic has taught her how to conduct basic medical screenings and how to communicate the information and results to those receiving the exam.

“I’m able to use my Spanish to communicate with clients. Overall, volunteering for the mobile unit has been a wonderful experience, and I look forward to continuing work with the Tucson community,” Gonzales added.

Ms. Sheila Soto, project coordinator for the program, agrees that volunteering is a great way to learn about the health needs of the population.

“Our students are learning through interaction with community-based organizations, how to collaborate with colleagues from other professions and to understand the importance of providing culturally sensitive health services,” she added.

Dr. Rosales hopes they can reach residents who would be unlikely to seek medical help in a setting such as a doctor’s office or hospital, and help them find a community health center through referrals.

“The most rewarding part of this project is reaching out to community residents who have limited information and access to public health and health-care services, identifying available services that are within close proximity to their residence and helping to connect them to a medical home,” Ms. Soto said.