Professor Receives Grant to Improve Healthcare Access for Hispanic and Indigenous Women
Professor Suzanne Phelan, Cal Poly Kinesiology and Public Health Department, recently received a $30,000 grant from the Santa Barbara Foundation to improve the Cal Poly Mobile Health Clinic’s services for women in northern Santa Barbara County.
Launched in 2018, the Mobile Health Clinic provides free medical and preventive health care services to uninsured women and serves approximately 250 patients a year, including ongoing care and follow-up visits. Spanish is the most common language among the clinic’s patients, but about 20% speak the Mixtec or Zapotec Indigenous languages, which are not often translated into medical forms and literature.
The staff at Phelan and Mobile Health Clinic aim to change that. Clinic staff includes SLO NOOR Foundation clinicians and Cal Poly students, who serve as phlebotomists, health advocates, interpreters and medical assistants, and perform other support duties.
The grant funding is specifically aimed at making health care literature – such as intake forms, health history surveys and other materials – accessible to uninsured Hispanic and Native women who were never taught to read or write effectively.
These communication tools are not limited to translating forms into text, Phelan said. A client might be able to access a digital health history form that is read aloud via audio playback and accompanied by images that represent the content of the questions being asked.
Since the populations served by the Mobile Health Clinic often struggle with the trust of the medical community, research into what kinds of informational images instill trust and understanding among patients is also being done to make these tools as successful as possible. Phelan plans to distribute these materials to other healthcare community partners who serve these patients.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of working with our women’s mobile health program is seeing the cultural exchange between our staff and patient populations,” she said. “It is wonderful to hear expressions of gratitude from patients who are sometimes receiving care for the first time in their lives. Our staff and students are amazing, speak multiple languages and manage multiple competing tasks sometimes at the same time during peak times of the clinic.”
In addition to this recent grant, the Mobile Health Clinic has also received funding and support from the Santa Barbara Foundation, the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, and donations from Dignity Health and other private donors.
The clinic is made possible through a partnership between Cal Poly, the SLO NORTH Foundation, and Marian Regional Medical Center. The NOOR Foundation provides free medical care to the uninsured, and Marian Medical Center’s medical residents rotate on the Mobile Health Clinic as part of their underserved rotation. Marian’s laboratories also process many of the Mobile Health Clinic’s patient biospecimens.
To learn more about the grant funding and the services offered by the Mobile Health Unit, visit the Cal Poly Corporate Engagement and Innovation website.
To find clinic hours, locations and to make an appointment, visit the Center for Health Research’s website.
Main photo: From left to right are Medical Director Vicki Charbonneau, nurse practitioner; Phlebotomist Rubi Solano, CPT-1; Director of Operations Suzanne Phelan, Ph.D.; kinesiology major Elena Kraemer, a Cal Poly Health Ambassador; Mobile Health Unit Coordinator Cristina Macedo, MSW; Dignity Health Resident Anthony Reyes, MD; public health major Nathalie Zamora, a Cal Poly Health Ambassador; public health major Isabella Araoz, a Cal Poly Health Ambassador; and Mixtec interpreter Paola Ligario.
Want to learn more by doing stories in your life? Sign up for our monthly newsletter, the Cal Poly News Recap!
Subscribe to the Recap