Hennepin Healthcare’s pediatric mobile unit brings care directly to families

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Mobile health care is a growing trend across the country, and it’s gaining momentum in the Twin Cities. Hennepin Healthcare is one provider that’s embracing this new model with its Pediatric Mobile Unit.

It first launched at the beginning of the pandemic as a way to get preventative care to families in underserved communities.

“There was a decline in the rate of childhood immunizations, unfortunately, and when our patients are not protected then our community is not protected,” Amy Green, a nurse practitioner with Hennepin Healthcare, said.

Green is one of the providers who rides along with the Pediatric Mobile Unit. The van goes all over the metro and serves anywhere from seven to 10 patients each day. They give children the vaccines they need along with wellness checks.

“People struggle with transportation, they struggle with physically getting to the doctor. Some people don’t feel comfortable leaving their homes and going to the doctor,” Green said.

Many of the patients they serve don’t have access to reliable transportation or don’t have medical insurance. The mobile unit will park right outside a patient’s front door, making care convenient.

“Parents with young infants, they might not feel comfortable leaving. They might not want to bring their child into a hospital where they’re fearful they might get sick,” Green said.

The mobile unit makes monthly stops at Brianne Hogan’s home in North Minneapolis. Her 9-month-old daughter, Ro’zhyia, was born premature, making her more vulnerable to respiratory illnesses like RSV.

“There are three viruses we have to watch out for: the flu, COVID and RSV all in one season,” Hogan said.

Ro’zhyia is eligible to receive a drug called Synagis. It’s an antibody that’s used to protect babies from RSV.

“Snyagis is a medication that is given to infants who have a history of prematurity. Those infants are more vulnerable where if they were to get RSV they might suffer more complications, severe lung disease,” Green said.

Since the beginning of fall, the mobile unit has been offering Synagis to babies who are eligible. Hogan’s daughter gets an injection on the mobile unit once a month.

“It’s very helpful,” Hogan said.

Hennepin Healthcare was awarded a $200,000 grant through the Medica Foundation to expand the program.

“I think we’re seeing a trend overall in public health where more and more organizations are bringing care directly to the people that need it,” Gina DiMaggio, senior program manager with Medica Foundation, said.

DiMaggio said it’s an opportunity to expand a program they know is working to improve health equity and remove barriers for families.

“It makes it easy for families that are struggling in various ways,” DiMaggio said. “I think we’re going to continue seeing this trend for quite some time.”