I am thrilled to be a part of this program because it feels like we're really making a difference for these communities that need health care so badly. —Dulce Lisle

SALT LAKE CITY — Uninsured and underserved Utahns will have a chance to assess their health this summer, as the Utah Department of Health partners with community groups and clinics to offer free screenings.

Throughout the summer, the health department's Office of Health Disparities' Bridging Communities and Clinics Outreach Team will help facilitate screenings for blood glucose and cholesterol, hypertension, body mass index, as well as for other health risk factors. The intent is to provide appropriate health services for communities that lack access.

The team was launched as a pilot project last year, providing 883 screenings during 24 events offered through a network of 12 clinics and 22 community partners.

Sixty-one percent of people served in 2012 were uninsured and more than 17 percent hadn't seen a physician in more than three years, according to the team's report. The majority of those visits occurred during a community-based health fair or other similar event.

The report, a result of participant surveys, also indicates that just more than 11 percent hadn't previously received a medical checkup.

"All the screenings that Bridging Communities and Clinics offers are urgently needed by our people," said Ivoni Nash, of the National Tongan American Society. "But many do not know where to go and this program gives them referrals to a clinic so they can get the help they need."

Hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes diagnoses were the most common health issues found among screening participants. Each is a condition best managed with routine health care, which is out of reach for many, as the average annual household income was less than $50,000 among participants.

Ethnic and racial minorities in Utah bear disproportionate burdens of health conditions and the pilot program proved to be effective in reaching individuals from such underrepresented and economically disadvantaged communities.

The team's report reveals that 87 percent of participants indicated a nonwhite, minority background.

Last year's participants also noted a marked increase in their awareness of health conditions for which they may be at risk.

"I am thrilled to be a part of this program because it feels like we're really making a difference for these communities that need health care so badly," said Dulce Lisle, an intern with the program.

The summer screenings are offered by people like Lisle, who are studying in health sciences fields. Many have multicultural backgrounds and speak more than one language to facilitate better care for participants.

Comment on this story

If problems or health issues are uncovered during screenings, volunteers will assist participants in finding affordable primary care at clinics that offer free, reduced-cost or income-based services. Eligibility workers will also be on hand to help qualified individuals apply for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, if needed.

Screenings begin Thursday, June 13. For a complete list of events, held throughout the summer from Ogden to Oakley, visit www.utahmulticulturalhealth.blogspot.com.

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com

Twitter: wendyleonards