Hennepin Healthcare partners with MDH to bring routine care to kids

In the parking lot of an early childhood center in North Minneapolis, healthcare workers are bridging the gap and making it easy to get caught up on vaccinations and child exams, at a time when those essential visits are falling behind.

"We saw that our kids were behind," said Nadia Higgins from PICA Headstart. "When we talked to our parents…there were too many barriers."

Hennepin Healthcare started its mobile vaccination clinic in the early months of the pandemic, making home visits. Eighteen months later, they’ve expanded to pop ups.

"I think as word on the street spread about what we were doing, schools (and) head start centers reached out to us," said Dr. Dawn Martin, a pediatrician at Hennepin Healthcare.

Martin said even just the simple fact that parents can bring all the kids to the appointment -- something most clinics won’t currently allow due to COVID -- and that the location is where they’re going for school pickup anyway, is part of what has made this a success.

"The school teachers, the school nurses, the social workers — that community is established already, and for that community support to then say, ‘Hey, I’ve got some friends at Hennepin Healthcare. Why don’t you talk to them? That trust then gets extended to us," said Sheyanga Beecher, a nurse practitioner at Hennepin Healthcare.

Data from the Minnesota Department of Health shows a slight decrease in kids getting routine vaccinations last year, and preliminary data for this year shows a further decrease in them completing their series of shots.

Pre-pandemic, one in five kids were behind on their vaccines. This year, its projected one in three is behind.

"The community is really saying we need these services, and the data is there to support it," Martin said.

Hennepin Healthcare says patients are giving overwhelmingly positive feedback about the mobile clinics, and so they plan to make it a permanent offering. 

"The grace period that the pandemic gave us enabled people to think about the essentials and that is to bring the healthcare to the people and changing the models of care," Beecher said.