The mobile care unit makes regular health stops around the Lake District

Rosalind Franklin University Care Coach Health care providers are not shocked when a patient walks in believing they are in good health and learns they have diabetes or another serious health problem.

Natalie Castillo, manager of Rosalind Franklin’s mobile clinic, says it happens often. During a recent stop at Holy Family Food Pantry in Waukegan, an individual came in and tested with a very high glucose level.

“He had a reading in the 500s, which is extremely high,” Castillo said. “We referred him to the emergency department of the hospital. We followed up with him later to see how he was doing. We gave him a glucometer to check himself.”

The Rosalind Franklin Care Coach makes regularly scheduled stops each month in Lake County, mostly focused on low-income areas, checking people’s blood pressure, glucose levels, cholesterol levels and more.

Castillo said Care Coach specialists also test for strep throat, flu, COVID-19, urinary tract infections, ear irrigation and more. Those who want to undergo a cholesterol test should fast, not eating for at least 12 hours before the test.

Inside the Care Coach are two examination rooms designed to provide privacy to the patient with the technician or nurse. There is also a waiting room with a reception desk between the two rooms.

Along with basic tests, Castillo said people can get vaccinations against COVID-19, the flu and other seasonal illnesses. When a medical problem is identified, counseling, referrals and, if warranted, a prescription are offered.

Nick Castaneda, a nurse practitioner who was seeing patients at the Waukegan library bus stop Thursday, said parents often bring in children with earaches. Sometimes cleaning the ears solves the problem. In other cases, a prescription or consultation is necessary

“We see a lot of ear infections, especially in children,” Castaneda said. “We write a prescription and tell them to go to their primary care doctor if they’re not better within 24 to 48 hours. We tell them it’s very important.”

Regularly scheduled stops in Waukegan, North Chicago, Zion, Round Lake Area, Highwood and Park City are made according to the published schedule. In general, visits are made once a month for three to four hours.

Dan Moran, director of communications for Rosalind Franklin, said in an email that Care Coach was acquired from Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital in the summer of 2011 and was operational for the university in September of that year.

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Moran said between February and August 2021, more than 2,500 COVID-19 vaccinations were administered to “hard-to-reach populations” along with his regular health check-up visits.

“Care Coach (has been rolled out) to 30 locations that include village halls, schools, senior centers, shelters, food pantries, social service agencies, libraries, churches and community centers,” Moran said in the email.

During the visits, health professionals are joined by community engagement staff, who let people who go through Care Coach know what’s going on inside, as three individuals did Thursday outside the Waukegan Public Library.

The Rosalind Franklin University Care Coach makes regularly scheduled visits to various Lake County locations.

“Free health screenings,” said Francisco Navarro, a driver who doubles as a community engagement officer, as he handed out pamphlets to passersby. “We check your blood pressure, glucose levels and cholesterol if you’re fasting.”

Health screenings are part of Care Coach’s mission, but education is also a vital element. Castillo said it’s important for patients to understand what the different test results mean and when to see their primary care doctor.

If the patient doesn’t have a primary care physician, Castillo said the consultation shifts to the reasons why and how to fix the situation. Lack of insurance or insufficient insurance can be a problem.

“We provide them with information about low-cost clinics,” Castillo said. “Most of the people we help are on low incomes.”

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