Patient Health Advocates is one of four programs that comprise the larger organization, SCOPE at UCLA. SCOPE — which stands for Students for Community Outreach, Promotion, and Education — was established in the summer of 2003 as an effort between medical students, public health graduate students, and undergraduates to provide more comprehensive care to patients of the UCLA 200 Medical Plaza. Our program was founded under the guidance of pediatric physician Alice Kuo M.D. Ph.D. M.Ed., and Denise Nunez M.D. M.P.H serves as our current advisor.
Originally Resource Desk, in 2015, the program was renamed and restructured into Patient Health Advocates. It remains a collaborative endeavor between undergraduate caseworkers and UCLA physicians to provide underserved patients with helpful resources in their community that can improve their health and wellbeing. Therefore, a training curriculum focused on relevant public health topics is taught to new caseworkers every fall. This not only prepares caseworkers for one on one interactions with patients but also provides a background of various social determinants of health that can positively impact health.
Patient Health Advocates currently serves three different UCLA clinics: the Witherbee Foundation Children’s Health Center and the Internal Medicine Suite located at UCLA 200 Medical Plaza as well as UCLA Medicine-Pediatrics Comprehensive Care Center in Santa Monica.
In 2020, the committee system was restructured into project teams in order to improve efficiency, increase the quality of advocates’ work, and ultimately better serve patients. Currently, there are six projects in place: Health Technology, Resource, Outreach, Community, Transitional Care, and Member Development. Each project is dedicated to improving a different aspect of Patient Health Advocates’ interactions with patients, physicians, and with one another.
In the future, SCOPE Patient Health Advocates hopes to continue to grow in order to reach more patients and empower the Los Angeles community through caseworking.
To learn more about our parent organization, visit uclascope.org.
Act with empathy and respect.
We strive to treat everyone with empathy and respect. This goes for everyone we encounter: our patients, our teachers, each other. This means keeping an open mind, listening to others without judgment, and working collaboratively to solve problems.
Work to empower and educate.
Our core work aims to empower families with information and the help they need to live healthy lives. Through our services, we actively listen to our patient’s stories, provide them with resources, and work with their doctors to see their needs met. We also seek to educate our members and foster a supportive community for them to thrive.
Research and innovate.
We always continue to improve ourselves, our services, our resources. We rely on data to improve our resource database, our intake process, our resource delivery. We are go-getters who see problems and implement unique solutions.
Collaborate and communicate.
We believe that working collaboratively yields better results than working alone. Our success and continual growth depends upon the collective passion, energy, and contributions of all our members. We combine our shared skill sets and knowledge to best serve our patients and accomplish real, impactful change.
Manages and maintains the quality of PHA’s resource database, increases accessibility of resources, and participates in health fairs to provide our services
Facilitates the onboarding process for volunteers and spearheads initiatives to improve clinical workflows
Increases our organization’s influence on- and off-campus by collaborating with external organizations and organizing health fairs
Fundraises, plans socials of all sizes (including book clubs!), organizes annual banquet, and supports activities that to increase the sense of community within PHA
Plans and facilitates workshops and guest speaker sessions; leads professional development resources, including mentorship pairings, test bank, and more
Bridges the gap in medical education and care for patients transitioning from pediatric to adult care by providing necessary information and resources.
Imagine walking along a stream and noticing that people were caught in the riptide and drowning. You run to help people out, but notice more and more people are getting caught by these currents. You can’t help them all.
But what’s causing all this? You walk further up the stream and notice there is no fence blocking people from floating away from shore and into dangerous rapid water. So do you continue to pull people individually out of the water or decide to build a barrier to prevent more people from drowning?
These two choices address two different approaches to healthcare: downstream and upstream healthcare. Downstream healthcare would mean pulling each individual out of the stream, representing the idea that healthcare should focus on treating each individual and their symptoms offensively instead of defensively. Upstream healthcare would mean building a safety fence at the top of the stream so individuals cannot drift out. It encapsulates the core idea that health intervention should focus on tackling the root causes of disease and illness in a community rather than just the patient's symptoms.
The main philosophy of Upstream healthcare is based on the question, “How do we prevent this problem from ever happening again?” This incorporates looking at factors in a community like income, financial stability, education, food access, and housing stability to address the root issues of health problems. Rather than seeing multiple diabetic patients in a day and treating their individual symptoms with nutritional guidelines and medicine, the upstream approach tackles institutional barriers such as food deserts in a community to reduce the diabetes problem from its root cause.
Our goal is to communicate with patients to determine areas that might be affecting their health. We then connect them with free and low cost resources in their community in order to address the social determinants of health. This way we tackle the root cause and can effectively implement preventative medicine.
Learn more about Upstreamism in Healthcare:
Understanding the Social Determinants of Health
Impacts of Public Health Policy
Why COVID-19 Forces us to Look at Upstream Health