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VOL. 133 | NO. 112 | Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Medical Students to Serve Rural Arkansas in Mobile Clinic

By KENNETH HEARD, Jonesboro Sun

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JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) – An $828,748 federal grant will pay for a mobile medical clinic aimed at delivering health care to rural areas of the Delta region, New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University administrators said recently.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Delta Healthcare Service Grant will help the medical school buy a 40-foot long vehicle fitted with two examination rooms, an intake area and telemedicine capabilities. An additional $228,604 is provided for the purchase with in-kind funds from the school.

"We will be bringing medical care to needed areas," said Shane Speights, dean of the medical school at ASU. "This will be the vehicle – no pun intended – for better health."

When the institute receives the vehicle, called the "Delta Care-a-van," in September or October, medical students will travel to seven northeast Arkansas cities to provide free medical screenings, evaluations and referrals to other doctors.

The students will measure blood pressure and test for diabetes, anxiety and depression and offer medical follow-up care, the Jonesboro Sun reported.

The van will initially travel to seven rural Arkansas towns, Speights said.

The Care-a-van will stop in Harrisburg, Leachville, Lepanto, Manila, Marked Tree, Piggott and Walnut Ridge sometime this fall, he said. It is expected to make 78 "mobile clinic encounters" over 18 months and will offer evening service, he said. The van will also visit schools, churches, businesses and festivals and events to offer health education information.

Sixty to 80 medical students are expected to participate.

The van's intent is to educate people about healthy lifestyles and avoid medical issues that may befall them by ignoring their health early on.

A recent study released by the United Health Foundation showed that rural senior citizens compared with their urban counterparts had a higher risk of poor health and suicide. The foundation, based in Minneapolis, used 34 health measurements, including smoking, isolation and medical visits, to base its report.

Arkansas' senior citizens ranked 47th in the nation in poor health, behind Louisiana, Mississippi and Kentucky.

"We go to where the patients are," Speights said. "For some, it's difficult for rural families to travel to Jonesboro."

When officials announced the creation of NYIT on the Jonesboro campus in 2016, administrators said they wanted to combat poor health care in the Delta region, instill medical education in the area and provide graduating medical students opportunities for practice.

The Care-a-van offers ways to meet the three goals, the dean said.

"We'll get medical students into the heart of training," Speights said. "We will put them out there. They will learn as much from the patients as (the patients) will learn from them."

The medical school applied for the grant two years ago, basing their request on a similar medical van project in Ohio, but were turned down.

Mary Margaret Jackson, director of community outreach at the school, submitted her grant proposal last year and was notified earlier this year she had won it.

The school had to wait until the U.S. Department of Agriculture allowed it to announce the grant.

"We were bursting wanting to release this earlier," she said.

The medical school ordered the custom-built van from Pollok, Texas, and officials hope to receive it by September and to put it into use soon after.

"We've got work to do," Speights said, referring to the school's goal of increasing medical awareness and illness prevention in the area. "This is one step in the right direction."


Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, www.jonesborosun.com

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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