New West Valley City health clinic puts focus on Latinos, immigrants, the uninsured

The offices of Vamos Health, a West Valley City clinic geared to the Latino population, at a grand opening celebration held June 29.

The offices of Vamos Health, a West Valley City clinic geared to the Latino population, at a grand opening celebration held June 29. (Vamos Health)


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WEST VALLEY CITY — For an array of reasons, sometimes Latinos can't access health insurance at work or don't sign up for coverage.

The upshot can be undiagnosed medical issues that balloon into bigger problems over the long haul.

But in a bid to make health care more accessible to the population, notably Latino immigrants, a new health clinic has opened in West Valley City that offers primary care via a unique model — a subscription that starts at $60 a month for adults. Vamos Health, a private, for-profit venture launched by a team of health care professionals with experience in the Medicare and Medicaid sector, opened its doors on May 6 and held a grand opening celebration over the weekend.

"If we do it right for the population, we're going to have an outsized impact on overall health," said Maria Barnett, chief external affairs officer for Vamos, which means "let's go" in English. That is, by creating what Vamos officials say is an accessible means of getting primary medical attention, she said they hope to improve the health of the community by addressing "little things" before they can become "big problems."

Vamos doesn't offer specialized care or treatment but helps patients find care providers when needed. It provides consultations, preventive and diagnostic care, checkups, blood work, family medicine services and a long list of other offerings.

Latinos — with lower relative health insurance coverage rates, according to Pew Research — are the target population for the clinic, with staffers who speak both English and Spanish. More particularly, Vamos aims to cater to immigrants, including those lacking permanent legal status and those who don't have insurance.

"Immigrants and their families know that starting a brand-new life in a new country can feel daunting. Through all the stresses and changes, Vamos stands as a welcoming place for families of all ages and generations," reads the Vamos website.

Leaders of Vamos Health, a West Valley City clinic geared to the Latino population, and others at a grand opening celebration held June 29. Vamos CEO John Woolley is in the middle, wearing the suit.
Leaders of Vamos Health, a West Valley City clinic geared to the Latino population, and others at a grand opening celebration held June 29. Vamos CEO John Woolley is in the middle, wearing the suit. (Photo: Vamos Health)

Indeed, Barnett, in explaining Vamos, put a big focus on what she says is the contribution of Latino immigrants to the economy and creating an atmosphere that is welcoming to them. Latino immigrants who entered the country illegally or otherwise lack permanent legal status have become a particular target of criticism from some lawmakers and others as the immigration debate intensifies.

"We welcome all immigration statuses at our clinic," Barnett said. Patients also get the assistance of "community health navigators" who help connect them to non-health care related resources — legal support, experts on housing issues, job opportunities.

John Woolley, Vamos founder and chief executive officer, also focused on what he says is the importance of Latinos in bolstering the U.S. economy.

"The Hispanic community is an asset to this country. Much of what makes us all thrive is due to the role that hard-working Hispanic families play in our economy. We want to take care of them medically and support them in reaching their dreams," Woolley said in a statement.

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According to Pew, insurance coverage rates are lower among the U.S. Hispanic population and the community has less access to preventive care. "Language and cultural barriers, as well as higher levels of poverty, are among the social and economic factors contributing to disparate health outcomes for Hispanic Americans," Pew said in a review of the issue last year.

Barnett said sometimes Latinos don't sign up for coverage through their employers because they don't understand how it works, can't afford it, or don't qualify because of their migratory status. Pew said nearly 60% of Latino immigrants prefer going to Spanish-speaking health care providers.

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Tim Vandenack covers immigration, multicultural issues and Northern Utah for KSL.com. He worked several years for the Standard-Examiner in Ogden and has lived and reported in Mexico, Chile and along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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