Mobile health units may offer a viable approach for helping adolescents access sexual and health services, including contraception.
Mobile health units (MHUs), "hospitals on wheels" that visit children's schools, provide a portable and convenient method for bringing healthcare to communities. There are more than 2,000 MHUs in service across the country.
In a pilot study, researchers at the University of Chicago's Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation (Ci3) in Sexual and Reproductive Health conducted interviews and surveys with medical staff and adolescent patients on UChicago Medicine's Comer Children's mobile health unit. Results from the study were published in the March 2018 issue the Journal of School Health.
The majority of the patients surveyed -- predominantly Black and Latino adolescents, ages 14 to 21, from several urban neighborhoods in Chicago -- expressed interest in learning about sexual health through the MHU. More than half of them said they were likely to obtain birth control on an MHU.
Ninety-two percent of the youth reported they would recommend the MHU to friends, while 88 percent found it to be private, and 93 percent found it as a safe place to obtain sexual and reproductive health care.
In addition, the MHU medical staff expressed interest in being trained to provide contraceptive and sexual health services.
Findings from the study are now part of a large-scale project in Ci3's Design Thinking Lab. Working together, adolescents and clinicians will help create a future service plan for reproductive health care on mobile health units.
About Ci3 at the University of Chicago
Established in 2012, Ci3 is a University of Chicago research center that addresses the social and structural determinants of adolescent sexual and reproductive health. Ci3 houses three labs: The Game Changer Chicago Design Lab; The Transmedia Story Lab; and The Design Thinking Lab. These innovative labs create games and digital narratives, and design interventions with and for youth.