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ASU partners with March of Dimes to launch Mom and Baby Mobile Health Center

Edson College nursing students will provide prenatal and postnatal care in centers

Woman holding a smiling baby in a crowd of people.

Fourteen-month-old Andi plays with her mother, Yarixa Pereira, at the new Mom and Baby Mobile Health Center launch on Wednesday, March 6, at the Wesley Community & Health Centers Golden Gate Campus in southwest Phoenix. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

March 07, 2024

In her 26 years as a labor and delivery nurse, Laura Maurer intimately understood the importance of adequate and available prenatal and postnatal care.

That’s why Maurer, a clinical assistant professor in Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, couldn’t stop smiling Wednesday at the ribbon cutting for the March of Dimes Mom and Baby Mobile Health Center, which will provide those services to underserved communities in the Valley.

Edson College is one of three partners in the mobile center with the March of Dimes — United Healthcare Community Plan and Wesley Community & Health Centers are the others — and Maurer will serve as the center’s nurse practitioner while leading a care team that will include at least one ASU student in the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program.

“I think it’s so important for students to get an opportunity to see what we truly do, which is, ‘We don’t care if you’re insured, if you don’t have insurance, (we don't care) what your immigration status is, we’re going to see you,’” Maurer said. “No questions asked.”

Craig Laser, an assistant dean in Edson College, said the partnership on the mobile center exemplifies ASU’s charter, which states, in part, “assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves.”

Craig Laser, Edson College assistant dean, speaks at launch of Mom & Baby Mobile Health Center
Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation Assistant Dean Craig Laser speaks at the new Mom and Baby Mobile Health Center launch on Wednesday, March 6, at the Wesley Community & Health Centers Golden Gate Campus in southwest Phoenix. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

“We’re really about who we include, not who we exclude, in all forms,” Laser said. “And that includes access to health care in this community and this patient population. It’s vital.”

The need for a mobile center is clear. Jennifer Cunico, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said at the ribbon cutting that Arizona ranks 26th in the nation in infant mortality, and the mortality rate increased 11% in 2022.

Jean Kalbacher, CEO of the United Healthcare Community Plan, said only one in five women in Arizona receive adequate prenatal care and timely postnatal care.

“Strong babies start with healthy moms,” Cunico said. “Too many mothers lack access to their needed prenatal, pregnancy and postnatal care. We see this across Arizona, especially in rural and minority communities.

“That’s what makes the mobile health center so vital. It is a prime example of meeting people where they are with the utmost amount of care.”

See inside

Get a tour of inside the mobile clinic.

The March of Dimes operates five of the mobile centers across the United States, with two of them in Arizona. Joe Russo, the senior director of strategic partnerships and innovation in the Edson College, said licenses for the two centers are in the process of being finalized, with the expectation that the clinics will be up and running in late April or early May.

The centers will operate up to three days a week, but the specific sites have yet to be determined, Russo said. March of Dimes wants to co-locate the centers in underserved areas and nearby homeless shelters, YMCAs and food banks in the Phoenix metro area.

Although the centers — which include two exam rooms — will focus on prenatal and postnatal care, reproductive health care and newborn health care, they also will see patients who need general pediatric and adult health care.

Exam table inside a mobile health clinic
The new Mom and Baby Mobile Health Center offers three rooms, including two for exams. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

“What we’re telling people is that the March of Dimes wanted to provide a mom and baby health clinic, but if Grandpa comes along and needs hypertension screening, we’ll see Grandpa,” Russo said. “The services are available to everyone.”

Arash Ayni and his wife, Marmar Mustfawi, along with their two-month-old son Liam, were at the ribbon cutting along with several other families. Ayni and Mustfawi, who are Afghan refugees and live in the West Valley, said they appreciate the accessibility of the center.

“This is very good for refugees, and they said the center will be close to us,” Ayni said. “It’s convenient.”

If Grandpa comes along and needs hypertension screening, we’ll see Grandpa. The services are available to everyone.

Joe RussoSenior director of strategic partnerships and innovation, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Russo said the centers will be a “platform” for Edson’s nursing students, in terms of clinical placements, student research and capstone projects required in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

“Every minute we're in operation, there will be students on board,” he said.

Maurer said she also wants to integrate Edson’s undergraduate nursing students.

“And in the future, I have dreams of including social work students and community health students, to get them out and get their hands dirty, so to speak,” she said. “I’m really excited to do that.”

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