The Day – Mobile health screening program aims to reach people where they live

Norwich – Apart from the COVID-19 test and vaccination clinics held throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Hartford Healthcare has launched a mobile health program which aims to bring basic health screenings to residents of the neighborhoods where they live.

A-OK with HHC was created last fall based on the results of a recent community health assessment that showed access to basic care is a major barrier for at-risk populations. The program halted in January during the outbreak of the omicron variant of the virus but is resuming this month.

The program offers monthly mobile health screening sessions at area soup kitchens, homeless shelters and public housing for blood pressure and blood sugar levels, overall health assessments and connections to primary care facilities at anyone without a regular health care provider.

The next session will be from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday at St. Vincent’s Soup Kitchen in Paul Place, 120 Cliff St., Norwich. It is open to the public without an appointment. All services are free.

A screening session for residents of Stonington Arms in Pawcatuck will take place on March 31. The program will move to the Covenant Soup Kitchen in Willimantic in early April and return to St. Vincent in Norwich in mid-April. The dates and times of the April sessions are not yet fixed.

Michele Brezniak, community health nurse for Hartford Healthcare’s East Region, leads the program at the various locations, with assistance from nursing students from Three Rivers Community College if COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed to allow students to participate in outside programs. A community health worker from St. Vincent will assist with Norwich screenings.

Brezniak said participants will have their blood pressure checked and a finger-prick hemoglobin A1c test will give a three-month average measurement of the possibility of diabetes. Each will receive a questionnaire to provide a list of their current diagnoses, medications, recent hospital emergency room visits and other health updates.

All information is anonymous, with no personally identifying information requested, Brezniak said.

For those who don’t have regular primary care physicians, “we give recommendations on what to do and help connect them with resources,” Brezniak said.

She said the program tries to reach traditionally underserved residents, including low-income residents, homeless people, undocumented residents and seniors, in their own neighborhoods. It’s “growing slowly,” she said, to include screenings at some United Way mobile pantry sites in the area.

“We seek to close the loop and meet our underserved populations where they are,” Brezniak said. “Our goal is to provide tests that can help inform beneficiaries of their current health status and resources to connect them to health services.”

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Casey J. Nelson