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Four-year old Alan lives in the town of Douglas, which is in the rural and isolated, borderland region of Southeastern Arizona, and he has severe asthma. His mother and father are hardworking, professionals who hold significant responsibility in each of their positions. However, with Alan’s sudden and dangerous asthma attacks, and his pediatrician more than an hour away, the family found themselves frequently at the Emergency Room.
High co-pays, lost days at work, and long distance to receive health care. Alan’s need for urgent care was taking a toll on the family.
This is a very common story for many of the children in Cochise County, AZ, which is about the size of the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. There is a frustrating shortage of medical providers adequately trained in pediatrics, as well as other qualified pediatric health care professionals. Even if a child has excellent insurance, it is still very difficult or even impossible to access quality care. And, if a child requires speciality care or hospitalization, families need to travel either to Tucson (which is 2.5 hours away) or even Phoenix (which is 4 hours away).
In 2006, there were a total of 5 pediatricians in the county, which amounted to 10,200 patients per pediatrician. Of that five, only one pediatrician, Dr. Lee-Melk, worked in Douglas, where there are approximately 6,400 children between the ages of 0-18.
In 2009, Children’s Health Fund partnered with Chiricahua Community Health Center to make a change. Thanks to the generosity of Idol Gives Back, the Southern Arizona Children’s Health Project was funded to provide health care for children with special needs as well as state-of-the-art mobile/outreach services. In Douglas, the Project has grown to three pediatricians to help serve the children of the County.
Today, Alan receives quarterly prevention visits with the doctors and staff on the mobile clinic in his own community. He has been placed on the appropriate medications and his family has been learning how to control his asthma. The family can also take advantage of Saturday and evening office hours, so they no longer need to miss work. The Project is pleased to report that Alan has also not been to the Emergency Room since his family started visiting the mobile clinic.