My NHC Chicago host site, the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile at Advocate Children’s Hospital, is dedicated to bringing primary care and health education to the doorsteps of schools in South Chicagoland. What once was a semi-truck carrying shipments cross-country is now our highly-equipped mobile clinic, travelling to schools in Pilsen one day and Calumet City the next.
We believe that healthy communities start with each healthy child. We personalize community health by tackling health problems on an individual scale. When a child steps onto the mobile clinic, our team of providers will look at their medical history to see if the child needs a health physical, vaccines, or education regarding what’s going on with their health. Health education is my service priority - every child’s health is unique to them, and I want to make sure that they have the knowledge to understand their bodies. If a child has asthma, I reintroduce proper inhaler techniques. If a child needs vaccinations, I inform them on the importance and value of being vaccinated, so they know they’re protecting their immuno-compromised loved ones like their baby sister or grandma. For all children that enter the care mobile, I start a conversation about the benefits of healthy nutrition, a balanced diet, and physical fitness.
I have found that I have a few roles between the lines of my service description. When the children enter the Care Mobile, I make an effort to make them feel safe, comfortable, and listened to. Oftentimes, this is one of the child’s first memorable interaction with the medical world and it can be scary for them to do so without their parents. I have become a coloring-book partner and a hand-holder during vaccinations. I also serve behind the scenes, as I have navigated hospitals and clinics to find referrals to a medical home that is accessible and affordable for each child’s family. Currently, I am working on a project to establish a follow-up system on the Care Mobile, so that if the first referral didn’t work out, I can find one that is best for the child and their family.
It has been a privilege to serve these communities thus far. Hopefully, by taking community health one child at a time, we can do our part in making communities healthier - from Pilsen to Calumet City to all of Chicagoland.
This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2019-20 member Lauren Mueller.
Lauren is a Health Educator at Advocate Children's Hospital.