Community organization working to expand health care services in southeast San Diego


The Urban Collaboration Project is leading the charge to ensure residents of southeast San Diegan have access to after-hours health care.

Currently, many area residents do not have sufficient access to care as they often have to travel outside of their community for medical care after normal office hours or on weekends when health centers emergency care centers in the area are closed, according to the collaborative.

The Collaborative is an outreach program that uses volunteers to address disparities within the community, and its Health Action Team strives to do just that with the goal of expanding urgent care services for include wrap-around services and after-hours care in their community. .

Barry Pollard, CEO of the collaboration, experienced this lack of health services one Saturday morning when he was looking for an emergency center for his asthmatic daughter. Finding none, he hopped in his car and drove to a nearby community – a luxury he says many others don’t have.

“Most people in our community use public transportation, so when you have four kids and one has to go to an urgent care center, it’s a three-hour bus ride or an Uber ride. at $50,” Pollard said.

“A lot of our people have two or three jobs, so they might not be able to leave until Saturday morning … or late at night when they get home,” said community health advocate Dr. Suzanne Afflalo and leader of the collaborative’s health action team. “So instead, they take care of it.”

County health data shows that more than 43% of residents in the Encanto, Emerald Hills, Valencia Park and Skyline area visited hospitals outside of the 92114 ZIP code for emergency services in 2019, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.

More than 80% of the 56,700 people living in 92114 are minorities, according to 2019 data from the San Diego Association of Governments.

Inconvenience aside, Afflalo said, the lack of services often results in these patients having more serious health problems, as many choose to postpone doctor visits.

County health data shows staggering health disparities in the Central Region as a whole, which includes approximately 513,871 residents, or 15.5% of San Diego County’s population. It includes Southeast San Diego, Downtown San Diego and other outlying urban communities including North Park, College Area, Encanto, Paradise Hills, Barrio Logan, Hillcrest, Mission Hills and University Heights, according to the HHSA.

These data show that Central region residents are the least likely of any other HHSA region in the county to have a usual place to go when they are sick or need health advice, according to the Center for Policy Research. health from UCLA. Southeast San Diego specifically has the second highest proportion of residents without health insurance — 12.2% — in the central region.

The central region also had the highest proportion of residents reporting fair or poor health – 15% – in 2019. Southeast San Diego has the highest proportion of residents with disabilities – 11.3% – in the region central.

Studies have shown that chronic diseases are more prevalent in disadvantaged communities due to lack of access to health services.

In the central region, seven of the top 10 causes of death were chronic diseases in 2019 – mainly heart disease, cancer and stroke – and chronic diseases account for 51% of all deaths in the region, the south- east of San Diego reporting the highest chronic disease rate in the region.

Southeast San Diego also has twice the hospital discharges for asthma and hypertensive diseases than any other central subregion — and double the countywide figure.

Afflalo has held free health fairs for the community during the pandemic. But she said there had to be a more permanent and accessible solution.

Clinicians prepare to provide free health care services at a community health fair held at the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA.

(Courtesy of Dr. Suzanne Afflalo)

Additionally, Afflalo says the lack of appropriate levels of care in the community forces these patients to go to the emergency room for non-emergency situations.

“There’s a lot of diagnoses being seen there that really don’t have a right to be there, and it costs four times as much to be seen for something like bronchitis in the ER compared to…in a setting. clinical,” she said. “We want to provide appropriate care for appropriate diagnosis in the community.”

Urgent care centers fill a vital gap when someone becomes ill or injured, but their regular doctor is unavailable or they cannot wait for an appointment. These centers are equipped to handle minor procedures such as x-rays and stitches and common diagnoses such as the flu or strep throat.

“It will be convenient, accessible, and will really reduce some of these barriers to our health care, which will help improve some of these health disparities,” Afflalo said.

While the idea for the collaborative project came to fruition about four or five years ago, it wasn’t until after the pandemic exposed many of these regional health barriers that it really took hold. momentum.

“This is a glaring access problem,” Pollard said. “In the current model of health service and resource delivery, there is no one size fits all… Systems don’t work. We need another system.

Now, Pollard and Afflalo are working to develop greater collaboration across sectors, bringing together healthcare providers, experts, local authorities and residents to find a solution that works for the community.

The collaboration hopes to partner with existing urgent care facilities and ask health care providers to bring in after-hours clinicians to serve the community on evenings and weekends at existing facilities, in the long-term goal of creating a dedicated space in the community that can provide wraparound services.

These clinics would be available to anyone who enters, regardless of medical coverage or lack thereof, Afflalo said.

“If it’s okay for them in the community, we want them to be able to be seen at that clinic instead of having to go out of the community,” she added.

The collaboration hopes it can also help community members feel more comfortable about seeking medical care and, more importantly, help them know when to do so.

“The goal is really to try to do as much prevention, not allow them to stay (away from the doctor) as long and get as sick,” Afflalo said.

To get involved, email Barry Pollard of the Urban Collaborative Project at


Comments are closed.