House Calls at the Country Doctor Museum
The Country Doctor Museum in Bailey serves its rural community with mobile health units. This unusual outreach program relates to the institution’s historical content and models creative connections between common mission-driven goals: to interpret the past while building community in the present.
Many thanks to Anne Anderson, Director, and Jennie Schindler, Site Manager of the Country Doctor Museum, for this guest post. Much of the material previously appeared as a poster session at the NCMC annual meeting March 30.
The Country Doctor Museum is a history of medicine museum established in 1967 as an effort to preserve the material culture associated with rural physicians. The Medical and Health Sciences Foundation of East Carolina University acquired the Museum in 2002, and ECU’s Laupus Library now manages it. Seeking to help improve access to health screening and education, the Museum has embarked on a program to bring mobile health units to its small, farming community.
The Museum recognizes a distinct need in its local area for access to health care screening and information. By inviting various mobile health units to visit the museum, area residents gain access to health services such as kidney screening, mammograms and vision testing. The visiting health units introduce the participants to health professionals who can answer their questions and guide them in the right direction for continuing care. The Museum is engaged in growing the mobile health unit program due to the success of prior events and by the encouragement of grateful participants.
As a satellite program of Laupus Library, the Museum staff is kept abreast of regional trends in health disparity, public health concerns and challenges facing the health care profession in North Carolina. Located in the small, rural town of Bailey (population 600) and situated in the southern tip of Nash County, the Museum operates in a farming community with limited access to healthcare. Only one local family practice doctor is established in the Town of Bailey and the nearest medical center is close to 20 miles away in Wilson, North Carolina.
Demographic information about Nash County and neighboring Wilson County (from which the Museum draws heavily for its programming) illustrates a rural environment with above average unemployment rates. Underserved populations include a large African American community (39% in Nash County; 61% in Wilson County from the 2012 census) and a significant Latino community. Up to 26% of residents in area communities live below the poverty level. Nash County in particular has a decreased number of health care professionals, especially in comparison to the adjacent Wake County, and many of these health care providers work in Rocky Mount, located in the northern part of Nash County.
In the past, the historic and tourism focus of the museum’s programs has limited its contributions to the health community. However, through the use of mobile health units from medical and community organizations, the Museum has developed an approach to improve access to care and education for members of the community including breast health, vision testing and kidney screening. Mobile health groups from Rex Mobile Mammography, UNC Kidney Education Outreach Program and the North Carolina Lion’s vision screening unit are participating partners in the Museum’s effort to bring accessible health care and education to the Bailey community. The health professionals in these mobile units can advise local residents about the continuum of care for any risks or symptoms that they might present.
The Museum uses resources including its large parking lot, administrative coordination and marketing network to successfully host visiting mobile units. Community members have given a favorable response to mobile health events hosted at the Museum in the past. Appointment times for the day of the mobile units fill quickly and waiting lists are started in case of cancellations. Most women who participated in the mammography program were apt to schedule an additional appointment the following year when the unit visited again. Visits by new mobile units are planned for the coming year. Participants have expressed their gratitude and appreciation for the availability of these health units and look forward to future visits.
The Museum’s mobile health program follows a recent trend in the museum field to become more active in addressing America’s health issues. In 2013, the American Alliance of Museums published a report, “Museums On Call: How Museums Are Addressing Health Issues,” detailing the collective and individual efforts of museums in meeting the health needs of the communities they serve. Participants in the Museum’s mobile health unit events reflect the underserved minority population of the area.
The mobile health units help empower and educate participants to become better advocates for their own health. Repeat visits allow participants to start implementing healthy behaviors, such as by recognizing the signs of kidney disease or breast cancer, and to regularly screen for these diseases. Mobile health units can lead to personal health improvement and enable the Museum to become a health resource in the community.
Posted on April 14, 2015, in guest bloggers, museums, public programs and tagged AAM, Anne Anderson, community outreach, Country Doctor Museum, East Carolina, Jennie Schindler, Laupus Library. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.