It’s an early Sunday morning in May at the Mission Open Air Market on the Southside of San Antonio. Dozens of early shoppers have arrived and begun browsing through the rows and rows of vendor booths.
Just beyond these booths stands a 38-foot, white RV. Its bright blue and orange label reads Mobile Health Laboratory and can hardly go unnoticed. Two smiling faces are sitting right in the front, eager to make a difference in the community.
These friendly faces are part of the 24 UTSA student Health Ambassadors and certified community health workers that have participated in the Roadrunner Diabetes Screening and Education Project aboard the Mobile Health Lab- a customized mobile home that features state-of-the-art health and wellness equipment.
The goal is to provide San Antonio with as many free diabetes and health screenings as possible to underserved and economically disadvantaged communities. Under the direction of Dr. Zenong Yin, Loretta J. Lowak Clarke Distinguished Professor in the College of Education and Human Development and director of the Mobile Health Lab, the students and workers have been able to do just that, taking health and wellness to those that need it the most.
“We have been very successful in places like the Mission Open Air Market,” said Yin, who received funding from the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation and Firstmark Credit Union to support the project. “The people we give screenings to don’t usually have a place to go and receive these tests or information on diabetes.”
In seven months, the RDSE Project has provided free screenings for height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels aboard the Mobile Health Lab to nearly 2,000 people at a variety of locations across the city. Many of the beneficiaries spoke little or no English.
“People would arrive to the health screenings with questions already in mind,” said Claudia Martinez, a COEHD student who participated in the RDSE Project. “With the help of the amazing community health workers, we were able to give them answers, and guide them in making better health choices.”
At each location, the community health workers, who are graduates of Northwest Vista College’s Community Health Worker program, carefully review results with participants and provide them with information or referrals to programs that can help them manage their health.
“In the past, we were just able to do the screenings and hand the participant a piece of paper with the results for them to take with them to their doctor,” said Yin. “Now, because of our connections, we are able to refer people we identify as ‘at-risk’ for diabetes to the YMCA of Greater San Antonio’s Y Diabetes Prevention Program and we are able to refer people we identify as diabetic to the Metropolitan Health District’s Diabetes Self-Management Program.”
The RDSE Project has hosted several free bilingual health and lifestyle classes across the community that covered topics such as healthy cooking, exercising, and weight management. More than 500 people have attended these classes.
“Working with the Mobile Health Lab has definitely been an eye-opening experience in finding out that not many people are aware of the risks that they have for developing a chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” said Martinez. “I will take with me the experience of meeting and conversing with so many people who have struggled with their health. The engagements I’ve had with them will definitely help me in my future career as a health educator and registered dietitian.”
Although the RDSE Project officially ended in August 2016, the work that the students and community health workers have been doing with the project over the last nine years aboard the Mobile Health Lab will continue with additional funding provided by the San Antonio Area Foundation through the help of the UTSA Development Office.
“This work is really needed in the community,” said Yin. “There are not a lot of groups doing free health screenings in the community. We go to where the people are, whether in a church, in a school, or in a community, so that they don’t have to make an extra effort to come to us. I hope this has made the community aware of the college and the work we are doing in the community.”VISIT WEBSITE
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Community Connect magazine is an annual publication produced by the Office of the Vice President for Community Services (VPCS). The mission of Community Services is to extend UTSA beyond its campuses into San Antonio and South Texas through public service, extension, outreach and community education. This mission is accomplished through a variety of programs and initiatives, some of which are showcased on this website.