People without reliable transportation may have trouble accessing health care services. But missing important health visits like physicals, eye exams and dental check-ups can have long-lasting effects.
To help bridge these care gaps, Durham Technical Community College (Durham Tech) is taking huge strides. In June, they launched a mobile health lab where students and supervising doctors offer visual and dental health screenings. The lab serves mostly elementary-aged children in undeserved local neighborhoods.
The mobile health unit will provide services in Durham and Orange counties. It will reach students in communities that have over 50% of students on a free or reduced lunch plan.
The mobile unit will:
Fit children for glasses and provide glasses free of charge
Provide free dental pre-screenings and education
Offer health fairs at public elementary schools. During the fairs, students will check vital signs, cholesterol, and glucose. They’ll also offer health and nutrition education to combat childhood obesity.
The mobile unit will also act as a health education tool for Durham Tech students.
“The lab will allow our students to practice what they’ve learned in the classroom and show them firsthand what good their skills can do,” said Melissa Oakley Ockert, dean of health and wellness at Durham Tech. “The lab will allow us to engage with our community in new ways.”
Students will be able to participate in multiple health initiatives, including Dental Laboratory Technology, Nursing, and Opticianry. It is the only program of its kind in the state.
Partnering with East Durham Children’s Initiative, Samaritan Health Center, Missions of Mercy, and local elementary schools, Durham Tech students will assist with dental care and health assessments under faculty guidance. The lab will serve as a space for students and community members to take classes. It may even support COVID-19 response efforts.
“This will give our students critical hands-on experience while also expanding access to wellness for our community, proving once again that Durham Tech has the ability to provide the highest-equality instruction while serving those in need,” said Bill Ingram, Durham Tech president.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina supported Durham Tech’s mobile lab through a $1 million investment. Initiatives like these allow health care workers to meet the needs of people where they work, live and play.
For more information, visit durhamtech.edu.
Blue Cross NC By Nora Dennis
Maggie Brown via Blue Cross NC