The main campus of Golden Valley Health Centers in south Merced was filled with the sound of music and children’s laughter on Monday as families came out to enjoy an afternoon of activities and complimentary medical services.
The event was organized to kick off National Health Center Week, which highlights the role these centers play in community health and prevention efforts around the country.
With school just around the corner, Monday’s event was focused on kids. Sports physicals were available by appointment and free backpacks full of school supplies were handed out.
Attendees were also able to access a number of free services, including children’s immunizations, COVID vaccines and boosters as well as health screenings for blood pressure and glucose.
On the lighter side of things, there was face-painting, raffles, games, a K9 demonstration by police and a soccer obstacle course. The crowd was kept entertained by dance performances from local community groups, including Hmong dancers, Tahitian hula performers and the Ballet Folklorico de Atwater.
“COVID 19 really stalled us, so we came back with a bang,” said Yamilet Valladolid, director of government and community affairs for GVHC. “The community responded as well. They’re enjoying a day out and it’s a beautiful day.”
Also on hand for the event were local elected officials, including Merced County Supervisor Rodrigo Espinoza, and staff members from the offices of U.S. Congressman Jim Costa and State Assembly member Adam Gray.
Health centers like GVHC play an important role in preventive healthcare. The idea is to identify and treat health problems before they become chronic and debilitating illnesses, which often require expensive and time-consuming treatment if left unaddressed. Examples of preventive healthcare measures include routine checkups, screenings and vaccinations. Health data shows that about a quarter of Americans forgo regular doctor’s visits each year, even when they have health insurance. Illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and strokes are among the leading causes of death in the United States, and the sooner their symptoms are identified the faster they can be treated. Monday’s event was also aimed at keeping the community aware of the Center’s role.
“Healthcare access is not just within a clinic,” said Valladolid. “There are also external factors that affect people’s healthcare, like the economy, jobs and education. If a person does not have a job, they may lack insurance, or they may not have a place to live. Or they may lack the educational resources to be able to find these services.”
“We want families to also realize healthcare access is critical, important and it can be something that the whole family can do and take advantage of,” she said.
GVHC got its start in the Central Valley 50 years ago, opening a hospital-operated migrant worker health program in 1972, eventually expanding to Modesto, Turlock and smaller towns throughout the region.
The non-profit health group now operates more than 40 sites in Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.