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The Family Van -Mobile Clinic Delivers Culturally Competent Services to Underserved Neighborhoods

Colette Greenstein | 5/1/2014, 9:50 a.m. | Updated on 5/1/2014, 9:50 a.m.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Innovations Exchange (www.innovations.ahrq.gov) profiles The Family Van's innovative program, titled Mobile Clinic Delivers Culturally Competent Services to Underserved Neighborhoods, Leading to Identification of Untreated Chronic Conditions, Better Blood Pressure Control, and Significant Return on Investment, in their April 23rd issue.

Jennifer Bennet, the Executive Director of The Family Van, Harvard Medical School, describes the program's development, results, (of which the findings as a whole were an estimated return on investment (ROI) of 30 to 1), and lessons learned.

The Family Van is a free, Boston-based mobile health program designed to increase access to health and improve healthy behaviors by providing culturally and linguistically appropriate health service. The idea for the program began in the late 1980s, when Dr. Nancy Oriol, a Beth Israel Hospital anesthesiologist became concerned about Boston's poor birth outcomes and the high incidence of preventable conditions among her patients. Over a two-year period, Dr. Oriol and a medical student by the name of Dr. Cheryl Dorsey, interviewed residents in underserved Boston neighborhoods about their preventive care needs. Based on these interviews, Dr. Oriol created The Family Van.

The Van was implemented in 1992 and since 2001 has been operated by Harvard Medical School. The Family Van is staffed with a health educator, dietician, and HIV counselor, and provides a multitude of services such as screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose and obesity to HIV, depression, and vision. It also offers pregnancy testing, family planning services, and HIV counseling.

For fifty weeks out of each year, The Family Van regularly visits the communities of Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, and East Boston. These four communities were chosen because of the high prevalence of preventable chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, HIV, glaucoma, and related hospitalizations and Emergency Department visits among residents.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Health Care Innovations Exchange is a web-based program designed to support health care professionals in sharing and adopting innovations that improve health care quality and reduce disparities. The Innovations Exchange contains more than 850 searchable Innovation Profiles, 1525 searchable Quality Tools, and numerous resources to support the Agency's mission - to improve the safety, effectiveness, patient-centeredness, timeliness, efficiency, and equity of care - with a particular emphasis on reducing disparities in health care and health among racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.

For questions about the Innovations Exchange and to subscribe to biweekly issue updates, please send an email to: info@innovations.ahrq.gov.

About the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ):

AHRQ's mission is to produce evidence to make health care safer, higher quality, more accessible, equitable, and affordable, and to work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other partners to make sure that the evidence is understood and used.

About The Family Van:

The Family Van is a free, Boston-based mobile health program designed to increase access to health and improve healthy behaviors by providing culturally and linguistically appropriate health services. Our mission is to educate, counsel, and assist community members in strengthening and protecting their bodies, minds and communities.

We serve communities with disproportionately high rates of preventable diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and HIV by bridging the needs of community members with the healthcare system.

Affiliated with Harvard Medical School, The Family Van's success is due to a wide network of partners, volunteers and supporters. Together, we know that providing health care access to those in need results in early intervention, better care, healthier clients, and stronger communities.