The HHS Office of Minority Health announced support on October 24th, 2011 for a project that will build a collaborative research network to document the spread and contributions of mobile health clinics across the U.S.
The project will be conducted by the Mobile Health Map, a project of Harvard Medical School, and the Mobile Health Clinics Network, a San Francisco-based national membership organization with more than 300 members.
Key to the project will be the opportunity to leverage the work done by Harvard Medical School and its partners in creating http://www.MobileHealthMap.org , a web-based service that locates clinics across the U.S., and enables them to demonstrate savings from preventive screenings.
"This project has great potential to help us make better use of a frequently overlooked resource in the health care system, one that can help us reach populations that often do not have a regular source of primary care," said Dr. Garth Graham, deputy assistant secretary for minority health and director of the HHS Office of Minority Health. "Mobile clinics provide us with another set of tools for helping to serve racial and ethnic minority populations and others affected by health disparities."
Mobile vans and clinics provide health services to an estimated 7.5 million visitors each year, targeting people who typically do not have a doctor or insurance, or are otherwise outside the conventional health care system, according to the Mobile Health Clinics Network.
"I am constantly concerned about sustaining funding for my mobile health van. It creates a safe and trusting environment for marginalized teens, most of whom have never walked through the doors of my health center," said Dr. Anthony Vavasis, clinical director of Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York City and chair of the Mobile Health Clinics Network. "There are many different marginalized populations in this country and approximately 2,000 mobile programs -- all committed to serving our nation's most vulnerable -- were designed to reach them."
The project will allow mobile health projects to share data that will enable researchers to describe the reach and accomplishments of the mobile health model, the populations served, and its cost-effectiveness, in order to raise its profile within the health care system. The project will also convene academic, government and provider stakeholders to launch a formal research network in 2012. "As the founder of a 20-year-old mobile health program, I am committed to validating the mobile healthcare model through data, said Dr. Nancy Oriol, dean for students and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, who will be the principal investigator. "On one hand, we work on the periphery and have historically prioritized service to the community over data collection. On the other hand, we recognize that to continue to serve marginalized populations, we need to speak with a unified voice through evidence-based research."
Project organizers suggest that mobile clinics can help the nation improve the overall health of high-risk communities by delivering prevention services directly to those most affected, thereby reducing health disparities, enhancing equity and providing a low-cost model of care and prevention.
"Joining with HHS is the first step in fostering an alliance between mainstream healthcare systems and the community of mobile clinics," said Darien DeLorenzo, CEO and executive director of the network. "As we team up to expand the mobile health map, we will validate what we already believe, that mobile health clinics reduce disparities, improve access to care, and do it cost-effectively."