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Friday, Sep 29, 2023

Going Beyond the Clinic Walls to Help Communities Grow Healthy

Zoila Escobar serves as the senior vice president and chief administrative officer of AltaMed Health Services, the nation’s largest independent federally qualified health center. AltaMed has more than 43 health centers, serving more than 358,000 patients in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Employing more than 3,200 employees, AltaMed largely employs from the communities it serves. For more than 50 years, the organization has been dedicated to eliminating disparities in health care access and outcomes by providing integrated health services for Latino, multi-ethnic and underserved communities in Southern California. AltaMed puts its patients and employees at the center of everything the organization does.

Escobar oversees corporate communications, branding, development, human resources, facilities, government relations, civic engagement, and strategic planning and execution at AltaMed Health Services. All of these critical administrative areas shape nearly every dimension of the patient experience.

Dedicated to leveling health disparities in health care for underserved Latino communities, Escobar has spent more than three decades in community health leadership, spearheading everything from grassroots initiatives to major policy changes at a national level to improve access to health services.

Escobar’s work began with focusing on AIDS awareness and prevention. She was involved in policy work that led to the development of the Ryan White Act, the largest federal program focused on HIV care and treatment services for low-income people with HIV. The Ryan White Act also played a role in the inclusion of HIV/AIDS in the Americans with Disabilities Act. Her passion for AIDS awareness and prevention expanded on a global level when she worked with the World Hemophilia Federation and WHO.

Escobar’s impact can be seen throughout her tenure at AltaMed. Removing language barriers, she’s designed innovative culturally competent programming to meet the complex needs of AltaMed’s multiethnic patients. She spearheaded the implementation of WiFi services in each AltaMed clinic to support video translation and American Sign Language services for its patients.

Escobar raises $40-46 million annually for AltaMed to fulfill its mission to provide quality health care, regardless of the ability to pay. AltaMed receives federal funding, however it doesn’t sustain the innovative comprehensive programs AltaMed offers to its patients.

Escobar also steers an employee-giving effort that engages AltaMed’s workforce employees to support patients with emergent non-medical needs like car repairs, rent, groceries, and more. Since its launch, AltaMed Gives has raised $500,000 and served 18,000 patients.

When the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, health organizations shifted their operations quickly to safely respond to the spread of the virus. Hospitals immediately felt the burden in their ERs and ICUs, but community health centers, like AltaMed felt the burden too. AltaMed became the first step in the patient journey, seeking testing, medical evaluations and served a role in follow up care for patients who had experienced hospitalization. Under Escobar’s leadership, AltaMed’s development team secured funding from donors and launched nine outdoor testing and medical evaluation sites in 10 days. The sites accommodated anyone in the community and were accessible to essential workers in what would become the hardest-hit areas by the virus in Los Angeles and Orange counties. AltaMed ran the outdoor testing sites for months, serving tens of thousands until local health departments established a wider network of public testing sites.

Thinking beyond clinical services, AltaMed responded to the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic by partnering with food pantries to provide essential groceries and toiletries to patients who experienced job loss and economic devastation. Escobar’s efforts resulted in packaging and delivering food to patients who needed it the most.
Escobar understands that health care goes beyond the “four walls” of the clinics. In order for AltaMed patients to grow healthy, the organization must address the social determinants that are essential to living healthy and stable lives.

Learn more at altamed.org.


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