Monday, March 30, 2009

A Clinic on Wheels Helps Immigrants

"[The people we help] do not have access to health care. [This job] is very important for me, because we are saving lives." -- Mama Bus worker.

U.S. government data indicates at least 40 million Americans are without health insurance.

Within this vulnerable group of people, a disproportionate number are immigrants who typically receive fewer health benefits than native-born citizens.

This vlog is about the Mama and Baby Bus, run by the Mary's Center, a charitable group which helps individuals and families with limited or no access to health-related services in the Washington, D.C. region.

The bus makes regular stops to provide women with free pregnancy tests and information on where to get free health care. It also gives free health screenings to anyone who drops by, as well as referrals, vaccinations, and dental exams, and guidance on insurance enrollment.

Sometimes even affluent people drive by and park their fancy cars to get a free dental checkup inside the bus.

I caught up with a morning bus crew as they made a stop on the corner of Columbia Road and 14th street, in one of D.C.'s largely Latino neighborhoods in an area in the northwest part of the U.S. capital.

One of those interviewed, outreach worker Chelsea Nycum, followed up with an e-mail, trying to explain in better detail her motivation to do the work she does.

Her words also shed light on a part of the story that my camera was not allowed to capture.

Here is what she wrote: "When someone comes to the bus for an HIV or pregnancy test, the results that will come to light in our 20 minutes spent together have the potential to be life changing. In those few minutes, people usually aren't nonchalant and they don't pretend to have it all together. I am able to be a part of someone's life during something that is honest, vulnerable, and real. Now, I don't pretend to think that after a few minutes with someone that I know their circumstances or understand fully (or even partially) what makes them who they are, but I think that people appreciate being asked about the things that matter to them and they appreciate being heard. Too often, especially in the populations we serve at Mary's Center, people are coping with a lot of pain and tough circumstances and nobody ever reaches out to them to listen to their stories or to let them know that they matter."

Recent Voice of America reports on health care in America, include this radio spot by Gabe Joselow on the White House budget director’s claim that investing in health care is key to creating economic growth.

This radio/television report by Paula Wolfson is about President Barack Obama starting efforts to overhaul the U.S. health care system.