App By FIU Faculty Connects Low-Income Patients to Health Services

Teresa Schuster/Contributing Writer


Vulnerable communities can now easily find information about health services in their area by using an app developed by an FIU professor.

The app, called SALVA, is bilingual and is intended to benefit underserved Latino populations in the Homestead area developed by research assistant professor Gira Ravelo. Ravelo said that the Latino populations in this area are especially vulnerable.

“A lot of them don’t know where these services are or even what services are available to them,” Ravelo said. “A lot of them are migrant workers, farmworkers, low-income and low-educated. The majority of them don’t speak or write in English.”

Some of the migrant workers in these communities are undocumented, said Ravelo, and they are often reluctant to approach organizations for help.

“They know the political environment,” she said. “They’re afraid.”

Her app is intended to empower them to find resources for substance abuse, domestic violence, sexual health, and nutrition, among other things.

“Not all of them may have computers, but they all have smartphones, and they’re all very savvy with using them and using apps,” said Ravelo.

While there have been other apps to collect data about community services, SALVA is unique. Previous apps relied on Google Maps for information, which Ravelo said is unreliable since many local organizations don’t appear, or they appear in the wrong language.

“It wouldn’t pull them in and if it did it would only pull it in in English,” she said.

In contrast, SALVA’s information is also collected by interviewing community leaders and checked regularly to ensure it’s up-to-date.

When developing the app, Ravelo trained 40 community leaders in Homestead, showing them how to use the SALVA app and share it with others.

“When they run into someone that is in need of services, they can look it up, they can share the service, via text, email, or social media,” she said.

Ravelo has previously done research about migrant workers in Homestead and the challenges they face, including how gender norms hinder women’s healthcare access.

‘[SALVA] allows a woman to inquire about places where she can find information without being ashamed,” she said.

Ravelo has big plans for SALVA, intending to expand it to other areas of Miami such as Allapattah and Little Haiti, and eventually the entire county. She also wants to make the app trilingual, adding Creole.

For now, she is working on evaluating the app’s performance by interviewing the community leaders she trained. She intends to publish the findings in a paper, which she will use to apply for further funding to expand the app’s services.

Besides being used by people in need of services, Ravelo said that the app is a valuable resource for social workers who are new to the community or new to social work, and hopes to see it used by FIU’s social work interns.

The SALVA app is available for iOS and Android. Students interested in learning more about or participating in the project can contact Gira Ravelo at

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