Fresno State gets $4M to help provide health checks for Central Valley communities

CRAIG KOHLRUSS/ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

More Fresno County residents could soon access primary care check-ups through Fresno State’s mobile health units.

Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula, a Democrat representing western Fresno County, recently secured a $4 million investment through the state budget for Fresno State’s Mobile Health Unit program. The funds will be directed toward two new mobile units that faculty members and nursing students will use to provide basic health services to the community.

The money will allow Fresno State nursing students to provide services like blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol level tests, as well as flu and COVID-19 vaccines, to “some of the most dispossessed individuals” in the region, Fresno State president Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval said during a check presentation on campus Tuesday morning.

With the two new health units, the university expects to multiply the benefits they provide to the community “in a very significant way,” Jiménez-Sandoval said.

Since 2016, faculty and students have used the university’s one mobile health unit to treat more than 16,000 patients at 40 different locations across Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare counties. They often serve rural communities where medical services are less accessible.

The multi-million dollar investment will allow future generations of students to continue learning about providing health care in underserved areas, Arambula said.

“I’m grateful that these investments will allow our students to understand the community that they will have the honor to serve,” he added.

The new mobile units are currently being built and should be operational by the spring.

What is the Mobile Health Unit Program?

The Mobile Health Unit program started in the fall of 2015 and began providing services in 2016. Its goal is to provide healthcare services to underserved communities and field experience to Fresno State’s nursing students.

“Anybody can read in a book about underserved populations or health disparities or limited access to rural areas,” said Dr. Kathi Rindahl, a Fresno State associate professor and director of the Mobile Health Unit program. “But our mobile program gives our students firsthand experience on these health disparities and our Central Valley.”

About 150 students sign up each semester to participate in the program, and 30 go to each site.

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“The impact does not just stop with the patients, with their families, or with that community. It also has an immeasurable impact on us as future nurses,” said Kaide Garrett, a Fresno State nursing student.

“Being part of the MHU (Mobile Health Unit program) means that we’re sometimes the only access to basic health screenings and vaccinations for members of many communities,” she added.

By educating people on their health conditions and general healthcare, Garrett said she and her colleagues are improving patients’ quality of life – something she thought she wouldn’t be able to do until she graduated.

“Talking with the patients, I’ve learned what it truly means to serve,” she said. “Truly, everybody is winning in this situation.”