The University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital takes primary care to children in its surrounding neighborhoods. Comer Children's Pediatric Mobile Medical Unit offers a unique service to Chicago's South Side.
The mobile unit reaches children ages 3 to 19 who may not receive healthcare on a regular basis. "The healthcare unit is an attempt to improve access and meet the need for direct medical services," says Icy Cade-Bell, MD, medical director of the Pediatric Mobile Medical Unit.
The "hospital on wheels" brings medical resources to the children's school so parents or guardians don't have to work through obstacles, such as transportation.
The 40-foot-long Pediatric Mobile Medical Unit features two fully equipped exam rooms.
In addition to a physician, the mobile unit program includes two nurse practitioners, a licensed clinical social worker, a referral manager, and a program coordinator, who also acts as the community liason. It provides a full array of pediatric primary care services, such as:
Physicals for school and sports
Screenings for vision, hearing, lead poisoning, and anemia
Laboratory testing, if indicated
Acute care for illness or minor injuries
The mobile unit program also offers health education in the classroom setting for students, parents and teachers. Mental health assessments are offered at two high schools, with access to counseling if indicated. When appropriate, children are referred for follow up care and specialty services to manage conditions such as asthma, diabetes or mental health problems.
"We can't expect our students to excel academically if they don't feel well," said Arne Duncan, former Chicago Public Schools' chief executive officer.
"The health van will help us ensure that our students are in class and ready to learn."
"Community outreach is rewarding because we can provide services that may improve the health and future of children and, thus, the strength of the community as a whole," Dr. Cade-Bell added.
Each year, the Pediatric Mobile Medical Unit visits several elementary and high schools in communities on the south side of Chicago, including Woodlawn, South Shore, Englewood and Greater Grand Crossing.
The mobile unit program was developed with a donation from Gary Comer, the founder of the Lands' End clothing-catalogue company who also provided the lead gift for the construction of the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital. Since the program's creation in 2002, Pediatric Medical Mobile Unit activities continue with the additional financial support from several foundations and corporations.