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U of U Health’s Wellness Bus helping drive out diabetes, other ailments in Ogden

By Deborah Wilber - | Mar 23, 2022

Photo supplied, University of Utah Health

Registered dietician Theresa Dvorak helps the public during a food demonstration at the SunnyVale Farmers Market in Salt Lake City in 2019.

OGDEN — Free, confidential health services and educational programs are coming to the Marshall N. White Community Center this Friday by way of the Wellness Bus.

The mobile health clinic comes to Ogden on the second and fourth Fridays of every month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., offering screening services and nutrition education. Insurance and identification are not required. A basic information form with approximately 30 questions is available for those who choose to voluntarily fill it out. 

“If someone does not feel comfortable, we do not want that to be a barrier for people to get tested,” said Nancy Ortiz, Mobile Health Program operations manager. 

If language is a barrier, interpretation services are available for over 240 languages and dialects. 

While anyone can take advantage of services offered by the Wellness Bus, they are mainly focused on adults, 18 years and older, because children are generally healthy with access to pediatric care.

Photo supplied, University of Utah Health

A patient is screened inside the Wellness Bus in 2019.

That said, children who are overweight, obese or have other high risk factors associated with diabetes may be screened. The Wellness Bus focuses on preventing chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Health screenings are administered by health care workers from the community and include testing blood glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and body mass index. Registered dietitians provide nutrition counseling and lifestyle coaching.

Future health care workers from the University of Utah aid in wellness efforts in offering referrals to health and social service providers and programs.

Ortiz said there are many free or low-cost resources available with the help of local community organizations to address food and housing needs as well as dental care.

U of U Health launched the Wellness Bus in June 2018 in an effort to combat rising cases of diabetes and other chronic illnesses that are often preventable. As part of the Driving out Diabetes Initiative by Larry H. Miller Family Wellness, the Larry H. and Gail Miller Foundation donated $5 million to community outreach efforts by U of U Health.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 out of 3 people will have diabetes by 2050.

According to the CDC’s 2020 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, Utah adults have an age-adjusted rate of 8.6% being diagnosed with diabetes, compared to the U.S. age-adjusted rate of 10.0%.

Diabetes is said to be the leading cause of non-traumatic lower-extremity amputation and renal failure as well as blindness among adults younger than 75 years old and heart disease.

The Utah Department of Health estimates more than $1 billion is spent on direct and indirect medical costs in the state each year, placing an enormous burden on health care resources. 

Communities that don’t have enough access to medical services have a higher chance of developing diabetes because they are without regular access to screening, prevention and educational materials, Ortiz said.

While anyone can request the Wellness Bus at a community event, priority is given to events supporting the clinic’s mission in reducing the burden of diabetes and other chronic diseases in underserved areas by providing important preventative health services.

Ortiz said participants are encouraged to return as many times as they wish or feel necessary to do so. 

“(The Wellness Bus) hopes to empower our community members with the knowledge to make healthy lifestyle choices leading to improved health,” she said.

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