Loma Linda University Health hosts free quarterly health fairs for Coachella Valley migrant workers
By James Ponder
Loma Linda University Health recently launched a series of free, quarterly health fairs to serve the needs of migrant farm workers in the Coachella Valley.
J.C. Belliard, PhD, MPH, director of the Institute for Community Partnerships (ICP), says the Coachella Connect health fairs are a joint outreach between LLU Children’s Health – Indio, LLU Eye Institute, LLU School of Dentistry and ICP. They are designed to provide free care for people who often have no insurance and are unable to procure care for themselves.
“We’re focusing on two things — dental and vision care,” Belliard said. “There are always long lines of people needing those services.”
Gary Kerstetter, DDS, director of service learning and dental education services at the LLU School of Dentistry, coordinates dental care. Vision care is provided by the LLU Eye Institute.
“We perform dental surgery, oral hygiene and fillings for the patients,” Belliard says. “We also take donated glasses of varying strengths and match them to the needs of the people.”
Olivia Rodriguez, community liaison for LLU Children's Health – Indio, was recently appointed coordinator for the free health fairs. Rodriguez — who is also an MPH degree student at LLU School of Public Health — says her work with Coachella Connection includes alerting community members to the resources available at the health fairs, arranging space for quarterly events, and site coordination. “I’m onsite the day of the health fair and the day before,” she said.
Belliard says dental and vision needs often go unmet in the migrant community. “A lot of them don’t have access to care,” he notes. Belliard adds that the people who pick our food often have the best attitudes about life. He is grateful that LLU is able to help them in this way.
The first Coachella Connect health fair was held on May 5. “We collaborated with Dr. Carlos Fayard, a psychiatrist at the LLU School of Behavioral Health, who was coordinating a health fair with a local priest,” Belliard reports. The congregation in question — Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Catholic Church, in Mecca, California —serves the needs of approximately 13,000 families.
The next Coachella Connect health fair will be held on Sunday, August 11. Belliard predicts the temperature will be ‘blazing hot’ on that date.