City of Fresno and UCSF Fresno Partner to Expand COVID-19 Testing and Improve Health in Underserved Communities

The Fresno City Council voted today to approve a grant agreement with UCSF Fresno to significantly expand testing for COVID-19, especially in underserved communities and vulnerable populations that have been particularly hard hit by the highly contagious virus.  The agreement, proposed by Mayor Lee Brand and City Manager Wilma Quan, appropriates $5 million from the City’s Coronavirus Relief Fund to support the project and improve Fresno’s response to the pandemic and help improve health in areas that would benefit mostCOVID-19 is responsible for a global pandemic with devastating impacts throughout the world. 

“The partnership with UCSF Fresno will facilitate economic recovery and disease control,” said Mayor Brand. “Both of these require a better understanding of the disease, especially in communities of color, which are disproportionately affected and whose community members hold many of the essential jobs in the economy. This project will begin to give us some critical insight.”

The agreement between the City and UCSF Fresno builds upon UCSF Fresno’s Mobile Health and Learning or Mobile HeaL.  Emergency medicine physician and assistant dean at UCSF Fresno Kenny Banh, MD, started Mobile HeaL in the fall of 2018.  It provides mobile health services to vulnerable populations.  Health care and remote testing for COVID-19 will be provided in underserved areas of the City through Mobile HeaL.  

The funding will allow Mobile HeaL to expand services with additional personnel, equipment and increase the number of mobile units from one to three.  Community connections will be developed to offer the services and testing in neighborhoods and at schools, churches and other locations throughout central, southwest, southeast Fresno.

In addition to providing remote, accessible health care for vulnerable population, Mobile HeaL offers learning opportunities for medical students and pre-health students under the guidance of experienced medical residents and faculty physicians at UCSF Fresno.

“As a branch campus of the UCSF School of Medicine, UCSF Fresno is focused on education, patient care, research and public service,” said Michael W. Peterson, MD, associate dean at UCSF Fresno. “We are happy to partner with the City and various community based organizations to put our experience and expertise to use for the benefit of the community.”

The partnership will be in effect starting later this month through the end of this year.