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Detroit's WDIV-TV 4 reports on the launch of our new mobile clnic:
NEW MOBILE CLINIC LAUNCHES: "Clara" will double our capacity to serve Detroit children.
NEW MOBILE CLINIC LAUNCHES: Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan reads a thank-you note to the Detroit mobile program from student Laura Whitley (center) as fellow student Theodore looks on.
NEW MOBILE CLINIC LAUNCHES: Students welcome Clara with a spirited performance.
Dr. Elliott Attisha checks up on a young patient in Detroit.


Crisis at School

A teacher rushed into the mobile clinic at the school we were visiting today to tell me that one of her 13-year-old students was having trouble breathing. While the team checked our records to see if we had a parent-signed consent form for this student, I ran to find him sitting in the principal’s office in obvious distress. There was no time to waste. The principal called the boy’s father while I helped him onto the clinic. This young man did not have a history of asthma, but he told us that he got winded when he tried out for the football team.  The team immediately went into action, the nurse starting a breathing treatment while the driver began a chart.  When his father arrived, we discussed the asthma attack and how to take the medication in the prescription I had written.  I’m expecting the boy next week for a follow up.

Special Delivery

Why are these kids still sick? I was frustrated to discover that sometimes the prescriptions I was writing weren’t getting filled. Parents had no transportation to get to a pharmacy. We reached out to Henry Ford's Outpatient Pharmacy and they helped us develop a program that allows all prescriptions to be delivered directly to the school on the day of the visit. Not only does it ensure that patients receive their medication, but it is especially helpful for our asthma patients since it allows us to demonstrate proper technique with the patient's own medication. Because the instructions can be complicated, we are also working on picture based action plans that are easier to follow and can be referenced by the child and family at home.

Parents Without Options

Sometimes I just know I need to talk to a parent. Kids can’t be expected to manage their own health care.  Today an 8-year-old girl was actively wheezing and she needed a burst of steroid medication.  I call her mom’s cell phone number.  She was in the middle of her shift, and with her supervisor looming, the mom said she didn’t dare discuss her daughter’s medical problem.  She was so upset, but she just can’t afford to lose that job. Unfortunately, this scenario happens time and again. 


Young people in Detroit often walk past empty lots on their way to school.  In the nation’s poorest city, 65% of children live in households where no one holds a full-time, year-round job. Ironically, in the historic home of America’s auto industry, one of the greatest barriers to care is lack of transportation.  The limited public transportation infrastructure has shrunk with recent budget cuts.


Due to budget woes and a declining population, Detroit’s School system has been forced to close dozens of schools in recent years, including some that previously housed school-based health clinics operated by Henry Ford Health Center. This mobile medical program put doctors and nurses on a state-of-the-art mobile medical clinic dubbed HANK - Health Alliance for Neighborhood Kids) and sent health care to the kids.  The “doctor’s office on wheels” allows the medical team to get to the schools where the children already are. Medical Director, Dr. Elliott Attisha said, "We know that healthy children make healthy learners. Yet we also know that Detroit’s children face significant health care challenges. HANK is able to bring care directly to the child and has played an integral role in alleviating many of these barriers."


Since hitting the Motor City’s streets in March of 2011, the Detroit program has partnered with five schools, including the Catherine Ferguson Academy, a charter high school for pregnant and “new mom” teens so they can stay in school and graduate.  There is daycare onsite. Many of these girls have to travel significant distances on public transportation to get to this special school.  Already juggling school and parenting, getting to a distant clinic for health care would be tough to manage. Pulling right up in to the Academy parking lot, the two doctors, nurse, and medical assistant on the mobile unit provide care for both the mothers and their babies, keeping the whole family healthy. 

Home Institution/Affiliation 
Department of Pediatrics at Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, MI
Available services 
  • Primary care;
  • Treatment for chronic conditions;
  • Physical and sports examinations;
  • Immunizations;
  • Vision and dental services;
  • Referrals for specialty care;
  • Behavior health case management and referrals;
  • Urgent care;
  • Transportation assistance to specialty care and other services;
  • Health insurance enrollment assistance, e.g., Medicaid, community outreach; and
  • Health education.
Program Fact sheet