Mobile Health Program Brings Care to Rural New Mexico

Mobile Health Program Brings Care to Rural New Mexico

New Mexico is the fifth largest state by square miles. People who live in the state are spread over a vast area. About 686,000 people live in rural parts of the state.

People who live in rural places often have a greater chance of dying from heart disease, cancer, stroke and other health issues. One of the reasons for that is a lack of access to health care.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico’s Care Van® program helps more New Mexicans in underserved rural places get preventive health care. The Care Vans are mobile health clinics. These clinics bring medical care to where people live. There is no charge to access services in the Care Vans.

“When the Care Van goes to a senior center, a school or a community center, several community partners come together to offer services to everyone who attends,” said Dr. Eugene Sun, vice president and chief medical officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico (BCBSNM). “It’s about all citizens of the state who need access.”

Many challenges, such as lack of health insurance or transportation, may stop people from getting health care. The Care Vans help bridge these gaps. With this program, BCBSNM is working with community partners to help New Mexicans lead healthier lives.

The Care Van program works with independent health care providers. These providers have varied specialties, such as vision and dental. They do many types of exams and tests. They also give immunizations.

BCBSNM introduced the first Care Van in 2006. Last year, BCBSNM expanded its Care Van program by adding a second Care Van. As a result, the program is reaching more rural and tribal places.

A community member receives a health screening in the Care Van

A health screening in the Care Van.

The Care Van has served people in Counselor, a small, rural community in Sandoval County. The Care Van also worked with First Nations Community Healthsource to give screenings and health education in Gallup, near the Arizona border.

The number of providers with the program more than doubled after BCBSNM added the second Care Van. The providers gave more than 6,700 health services and screenings in 2018. That is a 67 percent increase from the last year that the program had one Care Van.

Among the Care Van program’s community partners is Southern New Mexico Diabetes Outreach (SNMDO). SNMDO focuses on diabetes education, prevention and management. With the Care Van, SNMDO does cholesterol and blood sugar screenings, blood pressure testing, and body mass index (BMI) measurements.

“We do screen almost 1,000 people a year, and we go to about 30 different locations,” said June Donohue, SNMDO’s executive director. “About half of those are in the Care Van.”

The New Mexico Hispanic Medical Association (NMHMA) has used the Care Van to provide Alzheimer’s screenings, well-child checks and other services at its yearly Feria de Salud: A Day of Free Healthcare.

The health fair has reached about 10,000 medically uninsured and underserved people.

“Most of these people are not seeking health care because of cost or lack of insurance,” said Dr. Anthony Vigil, a family practitioner and a board member of the NMHMA. “The Care Van is crucial for us.”

Care Van community partner services.

Licensed medical providers give exams and evaluations in the Care Vans. Examples of services include:

  • Basic checkups
  • Immunizations
  • Flu shots
  • Dental screenings
  • Cholesterol testing
  • Blood glucose screenings
  • Blood pressure readings
  • Body mass index (BMI) measurements
  • Diabetes outreach
  • Health education materials and more
Sources: About Rural HealthOpen link in new window Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017; State Fact Sheets: New MexicoOpen link in new window U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, 2019
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