Launched in 2000, the UMass Memorial Ronald McDonald® Care Mobile provides onsite medical and dental services to children, families and individuals at 11 low-income neighborhoods, serving as an entry point into the health care system. The Care Mobile additionally offers preventive dental services at 19 Worcester Public Schools to school-age children grades K-6 who have a high incidence of tooth decay due to lack of fluoridation in the city water supply.
Now in its 17th year of operation, the program was the first of its kind in the nation for Ronald McDonald House Charities to provide medical and preventive dental services in a single mobile unit. The mission of the Care Mobile is to reach medically underserved populations including those who are uninsured, underinsured, or not connected to primary care medical services or dental providers. Complete with medical and dental exam rooms and lab capability, the mobile unit is staffed with a nurse practitioner, phlebotomist, and dental hygienist. In addition to providing on-the-spot medical and dental services, Care Mobile staff connect children and families to a medical and dental home. The staff provides medical interpreting and insurance enrollment assistance, and facilitates the connection of patients with needed social services such as food pantries, housing and other basic needs.
To promote wellness and increase access to care among Worcester’s significant refugee and newly arriving immigrant populations, Care Mobile staff also hold flu clinics at community-based organizations and participate in a range of special events throughout the city. The Central Massachusetts Oral Health Initiative, a partnership of the Care Mobile program and leading oral health providers, also works to ensure that preventive education and screenings, sealants and fluoride treatments are offered. Given that Worcester residents have voted four times since 1963 against fluoridation in the city’s water supply, our program plays a critical role in addressing the oral health of the community, especially at schools that have a high mobility rate among their student population. Statistics show that children with poor oral health are nearly three times more likely than their counterparts to miss school as a result of dental pain.
The Care Mobile is making a difference in the lives of families and children in Worcester. Regardless of insurance status, patients of all ages are served. From 2000 to 2016, the Care Mobile program provided at least 88,774 patient visits and 171,032 procedures to children and families.
Lack of fluoridation has contributed to high rates of tooth decay. High mobility rates among low-income families also add to this challenge in Worcester. By building partnerships with the schools and other providers, we have found a solution to ensure we are making vital preventive dental services accessible to underserved populations with the Care Mobile program. This program also addresses barriers of navigating complex health care delivery systems, particularly for those who have significant socioeconomic challenges.
We plan to strengthen our advocacy for improved access to high-quality preventive health care by our participation in the CHIP currently underway in the city. We will also be piloting providing restorative dental care as part of the Care Mobile’s school-based program in 2018.
Contact: Cheryl Lapriore
Senior Vice President/Chief of Staff