Improving equitable access and coverage to health services is a fundamental principle of service delivery, but this would not be complete unless there was a strategy in place to reach the most underserved communities living in difficult-to-reach areas. Unfortunately, despite the impressive gains in coverage, reaching last-mile populations remains a persistent challenge.
Mobile reproductive health units are an innovative healthcare delivery model that could help alleviate health disparities in vulnerable populations. They serve as a platform to help them navigate the more convoluted systems of the wider healthcare structure and connect them with their community’s medical and social resources. Such units can play an integral part in a healthcare system, providing accessible and sustainable care with quality that matches traditional healthcare settings.
Mobile reproductive health units are medically equipped vans with clinicians that offer reproductive health services, such as gynaecological examinations, sexually transmitted infection (STI) screenings, pregnancy tests, prenatal and postpartum care, health education, and referrals to social services. Vans include a waiting room, a private examination area, an education area, a laboratory, monitors, diagnostic equipment, and educational materials. Such units effectively facilitate access to health care particularly to vulnerable populations such as low-income or uninsured individuals, homeless, displaced populations, immigrants, migrant workers in urban and rural areas. In partnership and close collaboration with hospitals, health care systems, or public health departments, such units can make the best use of resources, to enable access to health services for all those who live in remote areas, who find it difficult to access services for reasons that transcend geography and for the vulnerable.
Goal: Mobile reproductive health units are a successful and cost-effective model of healthcare delivery uniquely positioned to assess and serve the needs of an underserved and vulnerable population. Such units seek to achieve: (a) improved reproductive healthcare services. (b) An efficient referral and remote consultation system. (c) Improved prenatal care (d) Effective pregnancy case registration and management. (e) Reduction of maternal and perinatal mortality and morbidity.
Because mobile reproductive health units can overcome many healthcare barriers, services provided by the mobile reproductive health units have been shown to improve individual health outcomes, advance population health, and reduce healthcare costs compared to traditional clinical settings.
Serving as a stepping-stone between the clinic and the community, mobile reproductive health units can address both medical and social determinants of health and have the potential to play an important role in our evolving healthcare system. Continuous research must be carried out to address the limitations and improve the capacity of mobile reproductive health units, increase the cost-effectiveness of mobile reproductive health units’ services, and mine both qualitative and quantitative data to champion a more widespread integration of mobile reproductive health units into different health structures to combat some of the largest healthcare challenges of this era.