Rural communities often face inequitable access to primary health care. Primary care is associated with positive health outcomes, but people who live in rural areas experience barriers such as transportation and a limited supply of providers that limit access. 65% of areas with a shortage of primary care professionals are in rural counties – impacting over 32 million people living in those areas.1 People of color living in rural areas are less likely to have a personal doctor, and Black and Indigenous people are more likely to report having multiple chronic health conditions.2
UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Kansas is working to address barriers to care in rural communities by providing a $100,000 grant to contribute to the creation of a new mobile health unit with Salina Family Healthcare Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) based in Saline County. Salina Family Healthcare Center has provided comprehensive, integrated primary care services for over 40 years and was founded with a special focus on serving rural communities in the area.
The goal of the new mobile health unit is to increase outreach and availability of services for rural residents in Saline and seven surrounding counties. The ADA-accessible unit includes an exam room, as well as medical and technology equipment supplied by UnitedHealthcare. In addition to providing basic medical care, the vehicle will be used to support people with chronic diseases, including diabetes and COPD. The team plans to use the vehicle for outreach to connect community members with resources and address needs related to social drivers of health.
“Growing up in the area, I have experienced the barriers that prevent rural residents from seeking care,” said Genell Heimer, Community Outreach Supervisor at Salina Family Healthcare Center. “We are excited for the new mobile unit to improve outreach and integration to make health care more accessible for people living in rural communities. We are excited that we will increase our capacity to improve health outcomes by addressing disparities and assisting people where they live and work.”
The new mobile unit aims to create more equitable access to care and reduce health disparities for Kansans by bringing health care directly to rural communities. With reduced transportation barriers, more people in rural areas will be connected to resources and care.