Cal Poly and local nonprofit SLO Noor Foundation are collaborating to provide free women's health and newborn care in Santa Maria and Guadalupe.
Suzanne Phelan, who heads up Cal Poly's Center for Health Research, said the partnership came together easily. Dean Wendt, the dean of the Math and Science Department that oversees the center, is also on the foundation's board. She said that the center's Women and Infants Mobile Health Unit (a clinic on wheels) will give students onsite experience, and the ability to provide free health services was something that the nonprofit could get behind.
"It's a wonderful and educational opportunity that these students have the chance to not only work alongside practitioners, nurses, and physician's assistants, but also with various patient populations all around the county," Phelan said.
She said that the Center for Health Research learned that there is a lack of access to women's and prenatal health care in North Santa Barbara County and beyond.
"It's not unique to the county; the state as a whole has about 24 to 27 percent of women with either late or no access to care," Phelan said.
The mobile unit will provide services at eight sites in Santa Maria on Sundays, Mondays, and Wednesdays, and at two locations in Guadalupe on Mondays and Thursdays–with no appointment necessary. Phelan said the reason for providing so many service locations is to ensure that uninsured families and migrant workers will have convenient access to health care.
Patients will be able to receive care in English, Spanish, and Mixtec languages.
"Students will learn by doing with observation and administering health assessments, referrals, and co-leading a lot of these programs," Phelan said.
According to Cal Poly, patients will also have the option to participate in sponsored research aimed at improving maternal and child health through Cal Poly's Center for Health Research.
The customized mobile unit, a repurposed RV, includes a fully furnished exam room and a counseling area. If a patient needs a service that is not provided by the mobile clinic, patients will be referred to partners in a wide network of community organizations, according to the university.
Phelan said that the mobile unit was made possible through donations. Cal Poly and the SLO Noor Foundation are talking about expanding the mobile services into San Luis Obispo County, but would need more donations in order to do so.