UA Offers Free Health Screening Services to Vulnerable Residents in Pima County

The University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and the Mexico Section of the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission are bringing health promotion and education services to underserved residents in Pima County, and giving an interprofessional team of UA Health Sciences students experience working in the community.

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

The program, “Juntos Por la Salud” (Together For Health) Primary Prevention Mobile Unit, provides free health promotion and prevention services and travels to communities where a large number of people are uninsured or underinsured.

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

“This is an excellent example of training an interprofessional team of students from the health sciences in community health,” said Cecilia Rosales, MD, MS, associate dean and professor at 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 Primary Prevention Mobile Unit launched in Phoenix in April 2016 and the Tucson program followed this April. Dr. Rosales reports that the mobile unit has helped more than 2,500 residents in Maricopa and Pima counties to date.

“The mobile unit 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 toward increasing access to care, health information, health education and referral services, thereby building a culture of health and healthy communities,” Dr. Rosales said.

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

“Being Latina myself, working with the Latino community in Tucson has given me much pride,” said Camille Gonzalez, 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 unit wanting to improve their health and the health of their families.”

Gonzalez says volunteering for the mobile unit has taught her how to conduct basic medical screenings and 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," Gonzalez added.

Sheila Soto, MPH, coordinator for the Tucson 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.

The mobile unit 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.

Dr. Rosales hopes they can reach residents who otherwise 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,” Soto said.

The UA Health Sciences’ commitment to improve the health of Arizona and prepare students to deliver compassionate, community-responsive, patient-centered care also includes the UA College of Medicine –Tucson’s Mobile Health Program. Operated by the UA Department of Family and Community Medicine since 1976, the Mobile Health Program was started by UA family physician Augusto Ortiz, MD, and his wife, Martha, to serve the health-care needs of uninsured families and individuals in Southern Arizona. The program’s payment policy remains, “pay if you can, and if you can’t, you still will get care.” Since its beginnings, the Mobile Health Program has received financial support from many partners, including the UA, Banner Health, Pima County, non-government organizations and private donors.

(More information about the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health’s Primary Prevention Mobile Unit Program is available here.)

About the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health

Established in 2000, the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona Health Sciences is the first nationally accredited college of public health in the Southwest. Today the college remains the only accredited college of public health in the state of Arizona with campuses in Tucson and Phoenix. The college enrolls more than 1,100 students each year across degree programs at the bachelor, master and doctoral levels. Through research, education and community engagement, the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health continues to find solutions to public health problems in Arizona, the Southwest and globally. For more information: publichealth.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter)

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences

The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. The UA Health Sciences includes the UA Colleges of Medicine (Phoenix and Tucson), Nursing, Pharmacy and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the growing Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, the UA Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater Southwest to provide cutting-edge health education, research, patient care and community outreach services. A major economic engine, the UA Health Sciences employs almost 5,000 people, has nearly 1,000 faculty members and garners more than $126 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: uahs.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn)