Entrepreneurial businesses and non-profit organizations are addressing the gap in service delivery in low-income urban areas through the innovative use of mobile infrastructure. The challenges presented by the long-term disinvestment in urban areas include a lack of access to healthy, affordable foods, health care services, and other resources that higher-income areas take for granted. Establishing new, permanent health care facilities, full-service grocery stores, and farmers market requires large capital investments, time, and commitment. By putting these services on wheels, organizations across the country are providing an intermediate step to reinvestment in urban communities.
Health care providers from Boston to New Orleans are providing a range of health care services through mobile delivery, including education; prevention services; and testing for hypertension, glaucoma, pregnancy, cholesterol, and HIV/AIDS. Serving primarily the uninsured in Washington DC, the Washington on Wheels Mobile Health Clinic is staffed by a doctor and a nurse practitioner who conduct regularly-scheduled visits to set locations around the District. Boston’s Family Van helped 2,322 patients identify previously undiagnosed conditions in 2010 and has assisted 50 percent of its regular clients to control their chronic conditions. To learn more about mobile health project across the country, www.mobilehealthmap.org provides information on over 450 projects as well as links to additional resources and data.
Mobile delivery opportunities extend beyond health care to the local food movement. In upstate New York, the Capital District Community Gardens’ Veggie Mobile (shown in "hyperdrive" in the video to the right) has operated since 2007 as a “produce-market-on-wheels that sells wholesale fruits and vegetables to low-income communities and independent senior living communities.” Operating out of a converted delivery truck topped with solar panels, this mobile service works with local farmers to provide access to seasonal produce at an affordable rate. Other mobile food truck projects include Farm to Family and the Real Food Farm’s Mobile Farmers Market.
Don’t ask the mountain
to move. Just bring a pebble
Each time you visit.
This eloquent idea can help urban planners frame innovative concepts for improving the range of services available in urban areas: mobile service delivery offers an opportunity to prove demand for and viability of services, opening the door to opportunities for future community investment in permanent bricks and mortar institutions.
Guest Contributor: Kate Bird