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The Health Hut Fights Chronic Disease in Rural Louisiana

The Health Hut is one of the mobile health clinics taking part in the Mobile Health Map, 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 has built a collaborative research network to document the spread and contributions of mobile health clinics as a model for improving access to care for racial and ethnic minority populations and others affected by health disparities.

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.

Of the 48 million uninsured Americans residing in the U.S, one in five lives in a rural community like Lincoln Parish. Providing health care for any uninsured population presents challenges: Studies show that uninsured people are less likely than insured people to have regular medical checkups and preventive screenings, and their health suffers the consequences, with chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes going untreated. In rural communities, these challenges are compounded by a lack of access to medical providers. While 20 percent of the U.S. population lives in a rural area, only 9 percent of medical providers actually practice there. And in Lincoln Parish, 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. Patients are offered preventive screenings and follow-up care for chronic conditions, limited care for asthma attacks and minor wounds, and referrals for more complex medical issues. In addition, The Health Hut offers a prescription assistance program that helps patients keep up with their medications, saving them from complications that would require a costly trip to the emergency room.

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.

"We will always encourage patients to make choices that will improve their own personal healthcare," said The Health Hut founders Drs. Leonel and Lisa Lacayo. "We firmly believe that when a community as a whole is willing to address the healthcare reality and needs of its less fortunate members, it is the community, itself, that benefits the most. You can have a physically, spiritually and economically healthier community by taking care of each other. Everybody wins."

Sponsor/Partners: Health Hut is a grant agency for United Way of NE Louisiana
Funder: Lincoln Health Foundation, United Way, CDC

Content Last Modified: 5/6/2013 4:06:00 PM
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