Mobile Health Programs Bring Care to North Carolina Communities

Rachel Zimmer, D.N.P., director of the Community Healthy Alliance at Wake Forest Baptist Health, and Stephanie Daniel, Ph.D., executive director of the School Health Alliance for Forsyth County.

When most people get sick, they drive to a primary care or urgent care office. But that’s not possible for everyone. So, North Carolina hospitals are finding ways to bring medical care directly to the people.

In Forsyth County, Wake Forest Baptist Health is gearing up to launch its mobile health unit, which will provide a host of services to uninsured patients, including primary care, preventive care, behavioral health, health education and peer coaching. The alliance will also help to coordinate care at homeless shelters, churches and community locations, where patients have difficulty accessing health care. The alliance will begin seeing patients this autumn, and its services will be free.

The mobile health unit stems from a partnership between Wake Forest Baptist’s Community Health Alliance program and the School Health Alliance for Forsyth County, which has been operating a mobile clinic for school-age children and adolescents since 2015.

“The idea for the mobile health clinic began when I learned that about half of emergency department visits in Forsyth County could have been addressed in a primary care setting,” says Rachel Zimmer, director of Wake Forest Baptist Health’s Community Health Alliance.

Aim High

Wake Forest Baptist Health’s mobile health unit.

“We want to make a real difference in community health and that means having big goals,” Zimmer says. “In addition to providing convenient and high-quality health care for primary and urgent care needs, we will coordinate care for vulnerable and uninsured populations. We will also continue building relationships with underserved communities, alleviate food insecurity and reduce emergency department visits by managing uncontrolled chronic conditions.”

With those goals in mind, the Community Health Alliance and School Health Alliance will share a nurse practitioner and a behavioral health specialist, as well as nutritionist support for the Mobile Health Program.

That breadth of expertise will allow the program to address needs ranging from common illnesses like colds and flu to chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes. The program will also provide no-cost lab services for common primary care labs; eye and hearing screenings and exams; well-child and sick-child visits; and prescription and pharmacist support to help patients get the medications they need.

“Honestly, that’s just scratching the surface,” Zimmer says. “We expect to see 1,000 patients in our first year, and we’ll be addressing a wide range of needs.”


Stopping Problems Before They Start

Meanwhile, in Robeson County, Southeastern Health is using a very different mobile health unit to make a difference in the community.

Called “Wellness on Wheels,” or W.O.W., the unit is a mobile classroom that focuses on educating community members, from young kids to older adults, about a variety of health issues – including ways they can maintain or improve their health through diet, exercise and lifestyle choices.

Southeastern Health’s W.O.W. (Wellness on Wheels) mobile unit.

“W.O.W. also provides multiple health services, such as blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and some cancer screenings,” says Lekisha J. Hammonds, MS, MCHES, RHEd, director of Southeastern Health’s Community Health Services Department.

The whole idea of W.O.W. reflects the understanding that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

“Southeastern Health wants to advance the health of our communities,” Hammonds says. “The best way to do that is to help people understand what they can do to stay healthy. But if people do have problems, we want to spot them early. The W.O.W. program helps us do both.”

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