Partnership adds mammograms to mobile clinic offerings

May 18, 2017

Mobile clinics from Community Health Programs and Ohio State University joined forces at the Athens Wal-Mart in March.

Through its Community Health Programs, the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine has worked for years to improve women’s health in southeastern Ohio. The expansion of a partnership with The Ohio State University will make that effort even more effective by adding mammograms to the list of services area women can access during one-stop mobile clinic visits.

Early detection is vital in preventing deaths from breast and cervical cancer. Yet many women fail to get the regular screenings they should, either because they can’t afford it or can’t find the time.

To increase early detection, Heritage College Community Health Programs staff have traveled around the region in a mobile unit for more than two decades, offering services that include breast health education, cancer screenings, breast and pelvic exams, and vouchers for mammograms. The services, also offered at the college’s Heritage Community Clinic in Athens, are available to all women, whether fully insured, underinsured or uninsured.

Over the next 12 months, CHP will join forces with other health care providers that will offer same-day mammograms at 37 mobile clinics throughout southeastern Ohio. In some cases, that partner will be a local hospital. At most of the clinics, the mammograms will be provided by The Ohio State University’s James Mobile Mammography Unit.

“On 26 dates that the OSU mobile unit goes out, we will be parked right next door to the Heritage College unit,” said Darla Fickle, program director for OSU’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. “We saw this as an opportunity to get more screenings done at the same time, making it easier for women to accomplish that.”

For the past seven years, she noted, the CHP unit had already been adding breast and cervical health services to the mobile mammography clinics the James conducted at some remote sites in Meigs County. Now, thanks in part to continuing funding from Susan G. Komen Columbus – plus support from the Heritage College, Ohio State and the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations – that cooperation is expanding into other southeastern Ohio counties.

CHP Assistant Director Carole Merckle, B.S.N., R.N., explained that making a mammogram available when women are receiving other services will help ensure that more women get the procedure.

Many women, she said – especially if they work and have children – may receive a mammogram voucher, but then fail to make or attend an appointment because of time constraints. A more comprehensive clinic, she said, should increase the number of women who actually have a mammogram.

“One of the groups we’re targeting as not getting regular screenings is working women,” Merckle said. “Same-day service reduces missed opportunities. It allows women to get complete screening services because it’s a one-stop shop. And that in turn reduces late-stage breast cancer.”

A major partner in the expanded mammography effort is Susan G. Komen Columbus, which from 2001-2017 has provided more than $1.16 million in funding to CHP breast health programming. Julie McMahon, director of mission for the organization, said the expanded partnership between Ohio State and the Heritage College is an outstanding example of the kind of collaboration Komen loves to see, in which partners complement each other’s strengths to improve women’s health.

“Different organizations are situated to meet different needs,” she explained. “And for a program to really do a good job, it has to be able to address a whole spectrum of needs. We’re trying to bring all those pieces together, and then just make it single-point entry.” 

Heritage College Executive Dean Kenneth Johnson, D.O., said the program is a model for how smart cooperation can boost the effectiveness of outreach efforts like those of CHP.

“These clinics are saving lives, and they will have an even greater impact with Ohio State on board as a partner,” Johnson said. “This is a great example of how effective teamwork in health care can make resources go further, and we’re very grateful to Komen Columbus and our other partners for helping to make this happen.”

On March 22, in what Merckle described as a successful test run of the new, expanded collaboration, mobile clinics from CHP and OSU set up in the parking lot of the Walmart Supercenter on East State Street in Athens. Female store employees were given leave by the business to attend the clinics during their work day. More such visits are planned to other area employers, as well as to community sites. Dates, times and locations for upcoming visits can be found on the college events calendar, or by calling 740.593.2432 or 800.844.2654.

In addition to the mobile clinics, during the coming year a number of specialty women’s health clinics will take place at the Heritage Community Clinic in Parks Hall. Women who attend one of these clinics will receive a referral voucher for a mammogram.

Last year, CHP’s Healthy Adult Project: Breast Education & Screening Program (now named the Healthy Adult Project: Breast Education & Screening Navigator Program) provided more than $65,000 worth of free health services, which included screening 266 women at 51 clinics. More than two-thirds of the women served reported that they would not have gotten breast and cervical screenings without the program.