Wellness Bus helps get residents on the road to better healthFeb 07, 2022 15h14 ● By Darrell Kirby
he University of Utah Health’s Wellness Bus is at the Redwood Recreation Center in West Valley City every Monday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to offer free health screenings and information. (Darrell Kirby/City Journals)
By Darrell Kirby | [email protected]
If West Valley City residents have a goal in 2022 to improve their health, they need to get on the bus.
It’s the Wellness Bus, the University of Utah Health’s mobile clinic where people can get free health screenings, nutrition counseling, and lifestyle coaching and education to help them live a healthier life.
The Wellness Bus is parked each Monday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Redwood Recreation Center, 3060 S. Lester St. (3100 South just east of Redwood Road). Times and locations can change, so it is recommended people view their schedule on Facebook (Utahwellnessbus) or Twitter (@UtahWellnessBus).
Step inside and community health workers will measure blood pressure, heart rate, glucose (blood sugar) level, cholesterol, and body mass index, a ratio of weight to height. The information gathered can also help determine if a person is more susceptible to (or already has) diabetes or other conditions, according to Nancy Ortiz, Mobile Health program manager at the University of Utah Health. “We’re just there to help them make lifestyle changes,” she added.
Any additional health history offered by clients can help community health workers and registered dietitians on the bus determine if there are deeper issues that need to be addressed at traditional medical facilities. “We don’t have medical providers on the bus,” Ortiz said. “We like to say that we identify (potential problems).” Clients who don’t have adequate financial means can be referred to free and low-cost clinics for further diagnosis and treatment from doctors and other medical professionals, she added. Most people who visit the Wellness Bus don’t have insurance and it’s not required.
Inside the bus on a Monday morning in January sat Maria Hernandez, a retired nurse from Venezuela. She has worked on the Wellness Bus since its inception. “I love to work with the community helping them in the area of prevention,” she said. “Diabetes is a big problem if people don’t take care of it. This is the reason that we are here.”
Pacific Islanders are especially vulnerable to diabetes. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show that Pacific Islanders are 2.5 times more likely to be diabetic than the non-Hispanic white population. More than 3% of West Valley City’s population is Pacific Islander, according to the 2020 Census.
A world map inside the Wellness Bus is dotted with pins showing the native countries of the clients who have visited the clinic on wheels.
“It’s really interesting to talk to people who came from different countries,” said Vika Havili, who has helped with health screenings on the bus since April 2021.
The Wellness Bus began rolling in 2018 in part with a $5 million donation the previous year from the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation, which supports organizations and programs that provide health, wellness and other resources to improve the lives of individuals and families.
Larry Miller died in 2009 of complications from diabetes. That’s one of the major conditions that the Wellness Bus helps people address through education and directing them to resources for treatment. In fact, the bus is a key part of an initiative called “Driving Out Diabetes.”
Besides West Valley City, the Wellness Bus makes weekly visits to Kearns, South Salt Lake and Glendale. “We go there because they have high rates of diabetes,” Ortiz said.
Hernandez encourages people in West Valley City to visit the Wellness Bus to get on the road toward a healthier life.
“This is my passion,” the 75-year-old said. “Giving service, helping everybody.”
For more information, visit wellnessbus.org. In addition to the Wellness Bus, the Redwood Recreation Center will host a free weekly nutrition education program, Journey to Health, starting in March. Text 385-226-5131 to register.