Cal Poly teams up with local nonprofit to give medical care to uninsured mothers and newborns
Cal Poly recently partnered with the SLO NOOR Foundation to provide free medical care to uninsured mothers and infants in Santa Maria and Guadalupe in a mobile clinic four days a week. Services will include obstetrics and gynecology, women's health, family medicine, nursing and pediatrics.
Local nurses, doctors, physician assistants, social workers and Dignity Health medical residents are helping staff the Mobile Health Unit, which is funded by private donations. Patients may receive care in the repurposed RV in English, Spanish and Mixtec languages. (Mixtec is spoken by about half a million people in the Mexican states of Oaxaca, Puebla and Guerrero, as well as in California.)
The mobile clinic will provide services at eight sites in Santa Maria on Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays, and at two locations in Guadalupe on Mondays and Thursdays — so that uninsured families and migrant workers will have more convenient access to health care. No appointment is necessary.
Sponsors hope that access to prenatal care will lead to fewer pregnancy and delivery complications. Staff will also provide programs that could lead to healthier weight and eating habits for moms and infants.
“Research indicates that mobile health clinics have helped prevent emergency room visits and improved access to care,” said Suzanne Phelan, director of the Center for Health Research at Cal Poly and the lead on the project. “These results translate into savings as high as $20 for every dollar invested in a mobile unit.”
The customized mobile unit includes a fully furnished exam room and a counseling area. For services that the clinic does not provide, families will be referred to partners in a wide network of community organizations. Sponsors are exploring the possibility of offering services in San Luis Obispo County if funding becomes available.
Education is also part of the Mobile Health Unit’s mission. Cal Poly students will Learn by Doing as they offer health assessments, referrals and active learning opportunities for children whose mothers receive care on the unit. Clients will have the option to participate in sponsored research aimed at improving maternal and child health through Cal Poly’s Center for Health Research.
“Future doctors and nurses need training in how to prevent and treat the health problems, including obesity, that face many underserved pregnant women,” Phelan said. “Students will learn from health care professionals, faculty, research staff, community partners, social workers and the patients.”
Representatives of the SLO Noor Foundation, a volunteer-based, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing high-quality free medical, dental and vision care to uninsured adults, are encouraged by the potential of the mobile health unit.
“Helping new moms and their babies start out life healthy and happy has such a far-reaching impact,” said Abe Lincoln, executive director of the SLO Noor Foundation. “It affects not only the family itself but also the extended family, neighbors and the whole community.”
The SLO Noor Foundation also offers care to those living within the community who are unable to pay, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or immigration or socioeconomic status. Dr. Ahmad Nooristani recognized the need to provide care to uninsured adults on the Central Coast in 2009. He opened the first SLO Noor Medical Clinic in October 2011.