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Partnership helps Hispanics in Utah get access to health care

SANDY — Raquel Zapata didn't want to spend the money to get vision tests for all three of her kids, but she realized it was an important part of overall health.

Lucky for them, the Hispanic Health Fair offered free vision screenings, among other medical and health services at the South Towne Expo on Saturday, where one of the three kids ended up needing further attention.

"He might need glasses," Zapata, of West Jordan, said, adding that she would have put it off to avoid the financial hurdle some appointments create.

"I didn't want to pay, knowing that they could probably just say, 'everything is fine,'" she said.

Zapata is one of thousands of Hispanics who attended the fair, which Telemundo Utah station manager Steve Downing said sometimes serves as "their annual checkup."

"The Hispanic community is a population that is under-served and also it is under-insured," Downing said. "It's important that they get health information in their language and are able to take advantage of the free or low-cost screenings."

This is the second year that Telemundo has sponsored the health fair and it has grown larger, to accommodate a bigger crowd, but also offers more services.

In addition to vision screenings, people could receive dental exams and teeth cleaning, blood pressure reading, glucose monitoring and cholesterol screening services, as well as flu shots from bilingual professionals at the fair. Information on health insurance and benefits available to the immigrant population in Utah was also a big and important part of the fair, Downing said.

"A lot of them come from a different health system," he said. "So it is important to educate them and help them learn their options and how to navigate the system."

Options for health care depend on residency status, said Alex Meza, an information specialist with Utah's 2-1-1, a free service of United Way. She said people must have a taxpayer identification number or Social Security Number to qualify.

Enrollment for a marketplace plan on is open Nov. 1 to Dec. 15.

"But there are wellness programs and ways to care for yourselves without health care coverage," Meza said.

Information about various community health clinics or charity and low-cost programs, she said, can be found by visiting or by calling 2-1-1. Information on health care benefits and the Affordable Care Act can be found at

The health fair happens to be one of the most popular events among the area's Hispanic population, which is up to about 17 percent of Utah's entire population, Downing said. Telemundo, he added, is the top Spanish-language television station in Utah, based on viewership and the station's community involvement, of which, the fair is included.

"I really like the opportunity it gives for us to get free access to visual, dental, vaccinations and information that is beneficial to our health," Zapata said. She has insurance for her family, but said it is important to her to save wherever she can.

"It's really a great event and very helpful," she said.

Telemundo works with various partners to offer the health fair, including Intermountain Healthcare and its insurance arm, Select Health, among others throughout the community. Walgreens was on hand to offer influenza vaccinations and the Junior League of Salt Lake City volunteered to offer dental health help.

The end goal, Downing said, is not only to help more of the Hispanic population to get enrolled and participate in routine health care, but also "help them make better decisions to better their lives."