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Mobile Unit Model

Isolation from health and human services prevents individuals and families from accessing needed care and community supports. Mobile units, which can be converted vans or small trucks, are used by health clinics and health departments to provide services to hard-to-reach populations. Populations that may benefit from mobile units include:

  • people who lack transportation services
  • isolated populations
  • students
  • and people who cannot easily leave their place of employment during business hours

Services that are provided by mobile units include health screenings, dental services, or benefits enrollment. Dental services can be delivered to rural communities through mobile dental vans or portable dental clinics in population centers, schools, or hard-to-reach areas. A mobile dental van may include the following components: working space, x-ray facilities, sterilization system, and computer. Mobile dental vans help rural residents who would otherwise have long travel times to see a dentist.

In addition, Section 330 of the Public Health Services (PHS) Act funds Community/Migrant Health Centers (C/MHC) to serve migrant and seasonal agricultural workers and their families through fixed-site health centers, mobile clinics, and voucher programs. Mobile health clinics are effective at reaching migrant farmworker populations because they are able to travel to multiple sites and can serve populations outside of regular business hours. Mobile units typically establish a fixed schedule of operating sites to be a reliable source of healthcare for the migrant population.

Examples of Mobile Unit Models

  • The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) allows individuals to apply for public benefits in local Community Services Offices (CSOs). In order to improve access to services for rural communities with limited transportation options, the department implemented a full-service Mobile CSO. Rural residents can visit the Mobile CSO to apply for cash, food, and child care subsidy benefits, as well as certain Medicaid and Medicare programs. The Washington State DSHS designed a video to demonstrate the layout of the Mobile CSO and describe the services provided.

Considerations for Implementation

The Rural Health Information Hub Rural Oral Health Toolkit-Mobile Dental Services Model discusses implementation considerations for mobile units including the importance of relationships with community stakeholders, staffing needs, and costs to consider.