GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For more than 25 years, Corewell Health’s Healthier Communities initiative has been working to create health equity in Kent County, specifically in minority populations.

“There are immigrants from a lot of different countries. We have people who are undocumented and are unable to get health insurance or have all these other barriers to health care,” said Gladys Pico Gleason, supervisor for the Healthier Communities’ ‘More Life Mas Vida‘ program. 

Originally called Programa Puente, there was a strong focus on assisting the Latino community, specifically new immigrants, with things like getting primary healthcare, enrolling kids in school, and finding jobs. 

“It was more around social issues that they were trying to help people settle,” Pico Gleason explained. “Over the years, they began doing more of a clinical focus on health promotion and chronic disease promotion and started doing biometric screenings with nurses, which are part of what we do today.”

Located in the heart of Grand Rapids’ Latino community on Cesar Chavez, More Life Mas Vida aims to remove many barriers that often lead to health disparities within these communities.

“Right now, there are some things that lead to that lack of access such as lack of health insurance, language barriers, and other issues like that that continue to put people at a disadvantage for health,” Pico Gleason said.

Corewell Health’s More Life Mas Vida program is located at 1357 Cesar E. Chavez Ave SW.

Two of the most common health issues medical staff at More Life Mas Vida see are cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The program is designed to prevent these diseases by offering biometric screenings. 

“We will check height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar as well as doing some social determinants of health screenings, health literacy screenings, anxiety and depression,” Pico Gleason said. 

The program also hosts flu clinics, provides kits for colon cancer screening, and partners with Corewell’s mobile mammography unit, offering three opportunities for free mammograms every year. The best part is that all services are free.  

“You don’t need health insurance or any of that and you also don’t need to have a primary care doctor that’s within Corewell Health. We’re open to anybody in the community as long as they live in Kent County.”

When it comes to medical care, Pico Gleason knows people are often fearful. 

“Some of the fear comes from money, lack of transportation, all those things that are normally barriers. Am I going to show up somewhere where they don’t understand me? And we surpass all those barriers. We’re not charging anybody. We have a staff that’s reflective of the community that we serve, so we’re just a really welcoming environment.”

Her hope is for More Life Mas Vida to continue positively impacting patients so that they can let other people in the community know there’s a place they can trust. 

“When you make connections with people and you see the need and you see the desire for them to access services, it just gives you more fuel to continue to go on and to serve people.”