St. Luke’s Mobile Health Van Initiatives: Increasing Access to Care for Children in the Greater Lehigh Valley
Since 1998, St. Luke’s continues to deliver mobile medical, dental and vision care services to the most medically underserved children in the greater Lehigh Valley through its Community Health Department and the collaboration of members of the Bethlehem Partnership for a Health Community. The health vans support youth in achieving a status of health that promotes academic and personal success. One of our primary goals is to help students get connected to a regular source of care, which may include: 1) reconnecting them back to their primary care provider, 2) connecting them with a local primary care provider if they do not already have one and/or 3) connecting them with health insurance.
Visits continue to increase annually and the mobile van staff care for youth with acute and chronic illnesses; provide dental cleanings and treat cavities; and screen them for vision problems. Over 30% of the youth seen on vans have no health insurance, and for many, these visits are the only medical care they receive. As many as 50% of the children provided dental care come from families with no dental insurance to cover the cost of their child’s care. For the remaining children whose families depend upon medical assistance, there are only 30 dentists, in the combined counties of Lehigh and Northampton, who accept medical assistance as payment for their services.
The mobile health vans reach children at schools, group homes and summer programs and can be found parked next to the places children spend day-time hours. The vans serve over 20 school sites and more than 16 community schools and agencies in the greater Lehigh Valley.
With the help of philanthropic businesses, foundations and community members, St. Luke’s staff can provide vouchers to the youth who need additional medical or dental care, or who need a pair of glasses. In addition to addressing access to care issues, our mobile health staff also focuses on nutritional counseling for adolescents with an increased or decreased Body Mass Index, as well as smoking cessation.