A University of California, Riverside, study that sought to determine barriers to health care among Spanish-speaking Latino farmworkers in rural communities has devised an innovative health care service delivery model that addresses many challenges these communities face.
The researchers, led by Ann Cheney, a medical anthropologist and assistant professor in the Department of Social Medicine, Population, and Public Health in the School of Medicine, advocate the use of mobile health clinics, or MHCs, that bring health care services to patients in their community spaces. Cheney was assisted in the research by Dr. Monica Tulimiero, who graduated from the UCR School of Medicine earlier this year and is now a resident in family medicine at Ventura County Medical Center.
MHCs, the researchers argue, offer health care services at times outside of business hours, which suits farmworkers. The researchers also urge providers to immerse themselves and practice in patient communities to better understand their health care needs.
The study, published in The Journal of Rural Health, was conducted in inland Southern California’s eastern Coachella Valley, an agricultural region home to many undocumented and underinsured Latino immigrants. It also included focus group discussions and one-on-one interviews with patients.
In partnership with Health to Hope, a federally qualified health center, Cheney and her team implemented three MHCs in 2019 in locations close to patients’ homes and community spaces, making sure the clinics accommodated patients’ time constraints. The MHC included two exam rooms.
According to the researchers, traditional models of care—the kind that expect patients to access health care services at brick-and-mortar structures within defined clinic hours—work for patients with resources such as paid sick leave and job stability but are not practical for Latino farmworkers in rural communities.