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Mobile health screening program aims to reach people where they live

Norwich — Separate from COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinics held throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Hartford Healthcare has launched a mobile health program that aims to bring basic health screenings to residents in the neighborhoods where they live.

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

The program provides monthly mobile health screening sessions at soup kitchens, homeless shelters and public housing locations in the region for blood pressure and blood sugar, overall health assessments and connections to primary care facilities to anyone without regular health care providers.

The next session will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday at St. Vincent de Paul Place soup kitchen, 120 Cliff St., Norwich. It is open to the public on a walk-in basis. All services are free.

A screening session for residents of Stonington Arms in Pawcatuck will be held March 31. The program will move to the Covenant soup kitchen in Willimantic in early April and will return to St. Vincent in Norwich in mid-April. Dates and times for the April sessions are not yet set.

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

Brezniak said participants will have their blood pressure checked, and a finger prick hemoglobin A1c test will give a three-month average measure of the possibility of diabetes. Everyone will be given 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 personal identifying information requested, Brezniak said.

For those who do not have regular primary care doctors, “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 senior citizens, in their own neighborhoods. It is “expanding slowly,” she said to include screenings at some United Way mobile food pantry sites in the region.

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

c.bessette@theday.com

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