When Gainesville, Florida, doctor Nancy Hardt and Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell first met, they had an unusual “aha” moment. Both had been mapping out the same area in Gainesville, only for different reasons: high crime rates and poverty birth rates.
A colleague suggested they meet and compare maps. What they saw was an area or “hotspot” that both maps shared. It was enough to launch them into action.
“We kind of blinked at each other,” Hardt says. “And—simultaneously—we said, ‘We’ve got to do something.'”
Here’s an excerpt from Laura Starecheski’s story that aired on NPR‘s public health blog Shots.
The hotspot is dotted with isolated, crowded apartment complexes with names like Majestic Oaks and Holly Heights. The first time she visited, on a ride-along with Sheriff Darnell’s deputies, Hardt tallied up all things that make it hard for kids here to grow up healthy.
And there were quite a few things Dr. Hardt noticed: substandard housing, hunger, and a lack of medical care services for the uninsured. The story continues:
She mapped it out and determined that the closest place to get routine medical care if you’re uninsured — which many people here are — is the county health department. It’s almost a two-hour trip away by bus. Each way.
The “clinic on wheels” first made it out to the hotspot in 2010, parking right inside one apartment complex there. Patients could walk in without an appointment and get treatment free of charge, approximating the experience of a house call. Today, the mobile clinic gets an average of 5,000 visits from patients per year, in under-served areas all over Gainesville.
You can listen to this story or read the transcript in its entirety at NPR.org.
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- Tracy Romoser was formerly a communications officer and the blog editor at PATH.