Talent Announces $650,000 Earmark for Regional Mobile Health Unit



Dec. 20, 2004 – U.S. Sen. Jim Talent was on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University today to announce and celebrate a $650,000 federal earmark to establish a mobile health unit to serve Missouri residents throughout the southeast region.

The earmark included in the new federal budget authorized by Congress in November will fund the creation of the Mobile Assessment and Education (M.A.E.) Health Fair to be administered by Southeast’s College of Health and Human Services. 

The project calls for establishing a mobile health unit that will travel to Mississippi, Pemiscot, New Madrid and Dunklin counties.  The proposed plans will provide assessments to include screenings in diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure, speech and hearing, and preliminary vision. 

Various health educational components will also be offered. 

Other assessments will include nutritional and pediatric assessments and well baby screenings.  The M.A.E. Health Fair also will provide referrals to social service agencies.  The mobile unit will be staffed with an interdisciplinary team of Southeast staff, faculty and students.

Dr. Ken Dobbins, Southeast president, said the University is looking forward to this opportunity to partner with healthcare providers and other agencies in the Bootheel with the aim of improving quality of life.

“We will not be competing with services already available, but will be asking existing agencies if there are ways University resources and expertise can help them meet the needs of their clients,” Dobbins said.

Dr. Loretta Prater, dean of the Southeast College of Health and Human Services, says the unit will be similar in size to the University’s new mobile museum, which is traveling the region, bringing cultural exhibits to areas throughout Southeast Missouri. The mobile health unit could be up and running as early as next fall, she said.

“The Bootheel is an isolated, rural area with critical health care needs, high levels of poverty and limited educational resources and services common in most communities,” Prater said.  “The lack of adequate transportation is of special concern,” and, Prater says, is the thrust of the M.A.E. Health Fair.  The M.A.E. Health Fair will serve as a bridge to access health care, Prater said, “because many rural residents do not have the transportation to travel to places to receive health services. The M.A.E. Health Fair will go to them in their communities.”

Talent added, “Access to health care is absolutely critical to our state’s rural communities, particularly in economically distressed neighborhoods.  This initiative will provide these areas with access to quality health care by taking the care to them.  I am strongly committed to improving the quality of health care in Southeast Missouri and will continue working with Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson to do even more to improve the quality of life in the region.”

Prater says the mobile unit also will be available to conduct health assessments and provide education at work sites, schools, churches and other convenient community settings.

 “On behalf of the University, I would like to express our sincere gratitude to the entire Missouri Congressional delegation for their commitment to bring these vital health services to citizens in the Bootheel,” Prater said. “It is because of the dedication of our Congressional delegation that residents in the Bootheel will receive these important disease prevention, wellness, and health maintenance services.”

The M.A.E. Health Fair addresses the concern of the Delta Regional Authority to provide assistance to severely distressed and underdeveloped areas that lack financial resources for improving the well-being of individuals and families living in those rural communities.  Prater says the University plans to seek additional funding to extend this outreach service to additional counties in the future.

“The goal of the project is to prevent disease, maintain good health over the lifespan, and positively impact the quality of life for residents in these communities.  By doing so, family members may enter and remain in the workforce, and enhance economic productivity,” Prater said.

Academic departments at Southeast involved with the unit will be nursing; the human environmental studies major in nutrition and dietetics; health, human performance and recreation; communication disorders; social work; and criminal justice and sociology.  Involvement of the College of Health and Human Services will be a direct reflection of the University’s commitment to its mission of community outreach. Undergraduate and graduate students will be involved in the project as part of their coursework requiring experiential learning, community service and internships.

 “The project will provide an excellent learning experience for students,” she said, adding it also will provide applied research opportunities for students and faculty. “They are going to be making a real difference in the lives of people and families out in these communities.”

Prater says the M.A.E. Health Fair will connect with local health care providers in the Bootheel counties, including hospitals, health centers, and home health agencies to work together in a collaborative effort to improve existing health conditions.

Prater says planning meetings will be scheduled in a number of Bootheel communities in the coming year so residents and professionals in those communities can discuss the needs. 

“They are in those communities and they know what the needs are and what assessments should be offered,” she said.

 “We think the mobile health unit will positively impact the quality of life for residents in the Bootheel communities of Southeast Missouri and will impact economic viability through a healthier workforce,” Prater said.