Everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes the Children’s Health Fund mobile medical clinic, at 44 feet, the largest in our fleet. The clinic’s healthcare team brings medical services directly to urban school sites and local resource centers. And, when specialty care is needed, the team can offer referrals directly to the home medical institution, Dell Children’s Hospital.
HIGH RATES OF POVERTY
With an exceptionally high poverty rate, the need is great. In 2011, the poverty rate in Texas increased to 18.4%, well above the national average of 15.1%. And in the state capital of Austin, the 23% poverty rate for Hispanic and African-American residents is double the rate of Caucasians living in poverty. Children have the highest poverty rate of all, and suffer from the impact.
“Many of our families are newly immigrated and are not up-to-date on immunizations. In some cases the kids have received limited or no preventative health care,” says Dr. Marilyn Doyle, medical director of the Austin program. “We work closely with school nurses and community-based programs so that children and families have consistent ongoing care with a primary care doctor who knows their history and can help connect them to specialists if their conditions are more severe.”
KEEPING KIDS IN SCHOOL
Austin also ranks third in the nation when it comes to the rate of teenage pregnancies. Often pregnant teens must make the difficult decision to postpone their high school education to care for their baby. Dr. Doyle worked with a city-wide task force to develop solutions to reduce the high rate of high school dropouts due to pregnancy and improve healthcare for the babies of these young moms. They determined that ifmedical care for both the teens and their new babies could come to them, it would help the teens stay in school and the infants would get the well-baby care they needed.
So now the Austin mobile clinic makes regular visits at an innovative high school that combines academic classes for the teens with a daycare center for the babies. The medical team looks after the physical and mental health of the moms and the babies and has developed productive relationships with the day care providers on site to improve continuity and comprehensiveness of care. Now these teen moms have a chance to graduate and build a future.
“Our goal is to reduce dropout rates and empower young parents to better care for themselves and their families,” says Dr. Doyle. “We want these adolescents to be healthy for school and the hard work of parenting, and their babies to thrive as they grow.”