Mobile clinic to visit St. Louis-area schools to provide diabetes care and prevention
St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine are bringing a mobile diabetes clinic to schools in north St. Louis County to help children manage diabetes and prevent the disease.
The Healthy Kids Diabetes Express mobile unit will rotate throughout the Riverview Gardens, Ferguson-Florissant, Francis Howell, Jennings and Ritenour school districts. It plans to expand to other districts. The mobile unit team will provide students access to emergency diabetes medicine, checkups and recommendations for future care.
There is a large population of children in the region who struggle with access to diabetes care and need services that could help save their lives, said Tesh Jewell, vice president of ambulatory and clinical support services for St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
“The need is so great,” Jewell said. “This is just one of hopefully many solutions that we can bring together to not only improve access, but improve the education and to empower and equip families to be able to navigate their chronic conditions or with the pre-diabetes work to prevent them from developing a chronic condition.”
Program managers contacted school districts where doctors at both health care institutions saw an increase in the number of children with Type 1 diabetes and those who came into the hospitals with high risks of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Medical personnel will perform screenings for diabetes complications through blood and urine tests and check students for retinopathy. Clinic workers will discuss nutrition with children who are at risk of developing diabetes.
The mobile unit can help children in low-income areas who lack access to health care and healthy food options take care of their own health and possibly save their lives, Dr. Ana Maria Arbelaez, a Wash U endocrinologist and Healthy Kids Express Diabetes medical director.
“This model, I think, can help us decrease costs and overcome health systems socioeconomic barriers to improve disease outcomes, and ensure that we really are delivering health care in a more equitable way to all of our community,” she said.
She said the more than $2 million project will help alleviate the challenges many children of color and low-income families face in trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The mobile unit team will also properly train students and over 250 school nurses on how to inject insulin shots and use insulin pumps and glucose monitoring machines.
“These things are critical for these families and for these kids to be able to not only care for themselves and do self management,” Arbelaez said.
Program leaders also will instruct health teachers and coaches in the district about physical activities and healthy diets that could lessen childhood obesity and diabetes rates in high-risk areas.
“My main goal for a kid with diabetes … is that they can be children, that they can be engaged in every single activity they want to be part of, that being at school is not a barrier, that having this condition is not an issue,” Arbelaez said. “So that we can actually be able to improve their glycemic control to be able to get them to be healthier adults.”