Mobile Health Clinics Bring Quality Care to Hard-to-Reach Communities: Health Hut & The Family Van

The Mobile Health Map is a project of Harvard Medical School and the Mobile Health Clinics Association, a San Francisco-based national membership organization with more than 600 members. With support from the HHS Office of Minority Health, the Mobile Health Map documents the spread and contributions of mobile health clinics as a successful model for improving access to care for racial and ethnic minority populations and others affected by health disparities. Read about two Mobile Health Map projects delivering care in underserved neighborhoods in Boston and a rural community in northern Louisiana.

Every week since 1992, residents in some of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods have found The Family Van parked at curbside spots in Boston’s Dorchester, East Boston, Roxbury, Hyde Park and Mattapan Square communities. Most of these neighborhoods are designated as medically underserved, and The Family Van’s convenient care provides a bridge to health and social services in a comfortable setting. The Family Van’s clients are from groups that experience the poorest health or have the hardest time accessing health care: 86 percent are minorities and 32 percent speak English as a second language. Services include education, testing and counseling on diabetes, obesity, hypertension, nutrition, glaucoma, HIV/STD prevention, prenatal care and reproductive health, among others. The Van’s diverse and culturally competent staff also counsels clients on how seemingly minor lifestyle changes such as diet, moderate exercise and quitting smoking can have a dramatic impact on health.

The Health Hut serves the uninsured in Lincoln Parish, a rural community in Northern Louisiana, by bringing primary medical care at no cost to residents via a mobile clinic. The program aims to improve the community’s health by making health care accessible to those residents who can’t afford it. With a population of 47,000 spread out over 472 miles, even patients who can afford or want to go to the doctor are hindered by a lack of transportation options to get there and the long distances involved. Since September, 2011, The Health Hut has worked to overcome these obstacles in a community where 22 percent of residents are uninsured and 25 percent live below the poverty line. The mobile clinic has seen over 2,600 patients in regularly scheduled weekly visits to each of the parish’s five towns.

Because 68 percent of The Health Hut’s patient population is African American, the clinic is particularly focused on addressing conditions and risk factors, such as obesity and tobacco use and, that are disproportionately high among the black population. Through screenings and follow-up care, The Health Hut is making progress in preventing some of the leading causes of death for African Americans: heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease. For example, in one three-month period, 249 patients diagnosed with high blood pressure experienced a 30 percent decrease in their readings over a series of visits to The Health Hut.

Based on a study by the Harvard Medical School’s Mobile Health Map, The Health Hut has saved the community nearly $3 million through its services and preventive care, making a positive financial impact on the community, in addition to the immeasurable benefit to residents’ health.

Population of focus: Rural, uninsured, limited English proficient, racial and ethnic minorities

Links to resource:

Date: 1992

Organization: Harvard Medical School and the Mobile Health Clinics Association