Traveling alongside the Ohio River in a new mobile medical clinic, Dr. Isabel Pino, Medical Director of the West Virginia Children’s Health Project, is on a crusade. She wants to ensure that the next generation of West Virginians leads healthier lives than their parents.
With a nurse and pediatric residents from Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, Dr. Pino brings primary care and health education -- services which many parents in this area did not have when they were kids -- to students in ten schools in the extremely isolated southwestern region of the state.
A CHANCE AT HEALTH
“Some days we will immunize 15 or 20 young children on the mobile clinic. It is often the first shot that they have gotten in their life,” Dr. Pino said. ”We have a shortage of pediatricians and a lack of public transportation here. The mobile program tears down these barriers so that parents can feel good about getting their kids to a doctor.”
Dr. Pino and her team provide a “medical home” for hundreds of medically-underserved children each year, much of which is either free or significantly reduced in cost. Sometimes, an exam will uncover a hidden problem, like when Dr. Pino found a toddler with a high lead-level. Other times, the need for an annual physical is the only thing holding a child back from playing on a school team. “If our mobile clinic wasn’t here, you would see a lot more kids sitting on the sidelines,” she says.
BUILDING HABITS FOR LIFE
For years, Huntington, West Virginia has worked to improve its reputation as “America’s Least Healthy City,” a distinction received when the Centers for Disease Control revealed that nearly half of the city’s adults were obese. Ending generational habits that include poor health choices is part of the road map plotted by Dr. Pino and her colleagues at Marshall.
Helping to get kids moving as well as eating healthy foods are major goals of the West Virginia Children’s Health Project. This year, the mobile program has partnered with the Spring Hill Elementary School to launch a family-centered healthy lifestyle program for kids and parents. It will include nutrition education, healthy cooking, and exercise classes. The program, like the mobile medical clinic, is designed to put families on the road to better health.