After rushing mobile medical clinics to the Gulf to provide crisis relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Children’s Health Fund stayed to provide essential healthcare long after the initial recovery efforts. The New Orleans mobile program supports the community in building for the future by bringing compassionate, comprehensive health care to approximately 1,000 of the area’s most vulnerable children each year, regardless of their ability to pay. “We are treating the sickest of the sick,” says Dr. John Carlson, the program’s medical director. We target the kids with multiple health challenges and stick with them over time to ensure they stay healthy.”
In the three parishes the New Orleans program serves—Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines—a lack of insurance, a lack of public transportation, and an acute shortage of doctors and other health care professionals compound the difficulties many low-income children face in trying to obtain quality health care. These challenges, which existed even before Hurricane Katrina, increased in the aftermath as an influx of immigrants who came to rebuild the city brought their families too.
The New Orleans program helps children overcome these barriers by bringing its medical and mental health teams right to schools and community centers in underserved neighborhoods on both the East and West banks of the Mississippi River. In addition, the program’s medical director, Dr. John Carlson, travels over 60 miles to the isolated peninsula of Plaquemines Parish each month. On this southernmost Louisiana outpost, jutting into the Gulf of Mexico, Dr. Carlson provides ongoing specialty care for a group of low-income, chronically ill children who might not otherwise get the help they desperately need.
A VULNERABLE COMMUNITY
Because children in New Orleans suffer from asthma at rates that are double and triple the national average, the program collaborates with schools and school districts to find and treat students with uncontrolled asthma symptoms. Caring for New Orleans’ neediest young people also means providing services in Spanish, since a growing number of the city’s low-income residents come from Spanish-speaking households. The New Orleans program maintains a Spanish-language phone line and depends on its bilingual case manager, Carlos Naranjo, who is also a certified medical translator, to anchor it services for this growing population.