Salud Digna clinics focus on preventative care in Mexico, southern California, six opened in 2013

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Salud Digna clinics focus on preventative care in Mexico and southern California. Six new clinics are opening this year.

It’s no secret that low-income people have tough choices to make. Food for the family or gas for the car to get to the job that often barely pays for the food?

The answers to those questions often easily take precedence over healthcare, even though in the long run, ignoring health issues can have catastrophic results.

For years, Jesus Vizcarra Calderon, a prominent businessman, watched people suffer from preventable diseases and conditions in and around Culiacan, in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. By 2003, he finally came up with a plan to help and founded Salud Digna. The health clinic offered quality, affordable screenings and vision services for low-income residents.

“My goal was to transform Mexico’s health culture to one of prevention,” Vizcarra says. “Mexican citizens, and in particular low-income people, tend to go to the doctor only when they have health problems. At that point, their situation is usually more complicated and it becomes increasingly difficult and expensive to address their needs. This often leads to catastrophic expenses for families, which can push them into extreme poverty,”

In the first month alone, Salud Digna performed four mammograms, sold 34 pairs of eyeglasses and performed 35 screenings, testing patients for various conditions and diseases. Today, more than a dozen Salud Digna clinics in Mexico and the U.S. serve nearly 2.5 million patients each year. Six new clinics are opening this year.

In 2009, Salud Digna served 756,000 patients and performed 1.5 million diagnostic procedures. The same year, Sinaloa had the highest prenatal survival rate in the country and the clinic had provided care for 36,000 pregnant women out of a total of 45,000 births in the state of Sinaloa.

“I wanted low-income Mexicans to have an active preventive care culture to avoid as many of these negative economic situations as possible,” Vizcarra says. “The only way to achieve my objective was to provide high-quality preventive care at accessible prices.”

Why not offer the services for free?

“I believe that for a person to appreciate a good or service, it has to cost something – not much – but something,” Vizcarra says. The model has been wildly successful.

In 2007, PACAL, a Mexican certifying firm, ranked Salud Digna as one of the highest-quality clinics in Mexico. PACAL evaluates more than 2,500 public, private and not-for-profit labs each year.

By 2008, Salud Digna had opened the organization’s first branches in other Sinaloan cities. In 2009, four additional clinics were added, while the services provided at existing clinics were expanded to include pharmacies that sell generic medications at cost.

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Stephanie Keet