Small Town, Big Challenges

“We’re what you think of when you think of small town America,” says one of Trenton, Tennessee’s four thousand residents. That means a close-knit community where everyone “pretty much knows each other”; it also means high unemployment, transportation challenges, food insecurity, and children without access to healthcare.

“Kids in rural communities lack access to the most basic healthcare: the preventive screenings that are so important in identifying problems early,” explains Lisa Dyer, nurse practitioner on The Memphis Regional Children’s Health Project (MRCHP)’s mobile medical clinic, a partnership program of Children’s Health Fund and LeBonheur Children’s Hospital. And at the over 50 schools and Head Start Programs they visit, the problems are many. “The level of severity and intensity of health issues that these kids have going on is surprising. The rates of elevated blood pressure, of asthma, of anemia. We have a 50% obesity rate.” Even a cavity can be a nearly insurmountable problem.

Lisa recounts that one child she examined had a toothache but couldn’t see a dentist because her family didn’t have a car. The same family frequently didn’t have money to buy the fruits and vegetables needed for healthy eating. “My heart went out to her because she was just talking so honestly. It wasn’t ‘poor me’; it was just reality. It was just what she lives with. So many challenges can keep these kids from getting the care we take for granted.” Because simply providing referrals to specialists isn’t enough, the MRCHP team works with families to ensure they can get to the care they need, and connects them with other community resources.

Ten year-old Karla and her father Zachary know first hand the challenges of getting basic medical care. Zachary has his own remodeling business but it slows to a standstill in winter. With transportation issues and “regular doctors about 45 minutes away in Jackson,” getting Karla to a doctor or dentist is all but impossible. That’s why, Zachary explains, having the mobile medical clinic come directly to the school “is good for the kids and the parents.” And Karla loves it. “Oh she came home and told us all about it and was so excited.” Karla elaborates “I was scared the first time I went on but everyone was so nice. I feel happy knowing they’re taking care of me.” And, like all parents, Zachary has high hopes for his daughter. “I want the world for her. It’s very comforting to know that if she needs medical help she has it.”

Karla loves animals and wants to be a veterinarian some day. With your support she and many children like her will reach their dreams.

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