UTHSC tackling grand challenges of rural health care across state

Published 9:46 am Friday, December 29, 2023

BY RANDY BOYD
PRESIDENT, UT
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) earlier this year launched a new mobile health unit dedicated to growing the availability of rural health care across our great state, starting with Lake and Lauderdale counties.
UTHSC, based in Memphis, is the largest educator of health care professionals in Tennessee. But in rural counties in Tennessee, the demand for quality health care is far exceeding the available supply. That’s where UTHSC’s Nursing Mobile Health unit comes in.
The UTHSC Nursing Mobile Health unit (MHU), funded through a $3.9 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, will immediately make a difference in Lake and Lauderdale counties, which have been identified as medically underserved. The MHU is staffed and operated entirely by UTHSC’s College of Nursing and will allow the college to integrate rural health education into its undergraduate and graduate programs. The mobile unit has a check-in area, exam room and ample capacity to house telemedicine, computer stations and clinical assessment equipment. Clinical services provided in the unit will include primary care, mental health care, chronic disease management, prenatal care, and HIV care.
The establishment of this MHU will help combat some of the largest health care grand challenges in our state:
– In Tennessee 91 of 95 counties are federally designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA). Source: Rural Health Association of Tennessee.
– Tennessee has fewer than 14 nurses per 1,000 people, according to a study conducted by NurseJournal.org.
– The March of Dimes reported last year that an estimated 34 counties in Tennessee are considered “maternity care deserts,” defined as areas where there is a severe lack of obstetric care or birthing centers. In some rural counties, women must drive more than an hour to receive basic maternity care.
– According to the Tennessee Hospital Association, Tennessee is described as medically underserved.
Focusing on the inadequate availability of health care in rural communities is one way the University of Tennessee System is addressing what we refer to as “grand Challenges.” Specifically, the UT Health Science Center recently unveiled a mobile health unit dedicated to growing the availability of rural health care across our great state.
The UTHSC Nursing Mobile Health unit (MHU), funded through a $3.9 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, will immediately make a difference in Lake and Lauderdale counties, which have both been identified as medically underserved. The MHU is staffed and operated entirely by UTHSC’s College of Nursing and will allow the college to integrate rural health education into its undergraduate and graduate programs. The mobile unit has a check-in area, exam room and ample capacity to house telemedicine, computer stations and clinical assessment equipment.
UTHSC is helping to lead the way as we tackle some of Tennessee’s most pressing challenges. In strengthening our most medically underserved counties, we’re helping to demonstrate that when rural communities win…we all win.

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