When the pandemic descended in the spring of 2020, many routines and everyday tasks quickly became things of the past. Unfortunately, this also meant many primary care offices were only shifting their focus to urgent health concerns, with preventative care and routine visits falling to the wayside. As it became clear that children’s immunization schedules were being delayed, community partners like Grace Health stepped up to help find a solution and keep these important health milestones on track.

Coming Together for Community

In March 2020, schools were virtual, access to preventative care and essential services was limited, and many guardians’ days were even less flexible than before. With crucial school-related vaccine schedules to keep, it quickly became apparent that healthcare needed to adapt and reach people where they were—in their homes and communities.

That’s where Grace Health came in. Located in Battle Creek, Michigan, Grace Health provides patient-centered healthcare with a focus on excellence in quality, service, and access to care. With an additional 11 sites in Calhoun County, Grace Health offers service throughout Battle Creek communities and beyond.

The Grace Health Student Health Centers saw a need to continue preventative care and routine care services through the pandemic while students were not at school. Grace Health also happens to be a part of Access to Care, a partner group of Population Health Alliance of Calhoun County (PHA), represented by community members who discuss ways to improve access to healthcare. That’s why it was only natural for Grace Health to find a way to bring health care to their patients when traditional visits were impossible.  To offer safe preventative care, the Grace Health Student Health Centers started offering home appointments and mobile vaccine clinics to families in need who were due for their school-required vaccines and experiencing barriers to care during the pandemic.

Facing Challenges Head-on

Although there was clearly an urgent need for medical care in the community, some hurdles needed to be cleared before the project could move forward. Since Grace Health receives funding through HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration), that organization had to issue approval before any care could be provided within patient homes and community settings. 

As soon as they received approval, Grace Health moved quickly into the next phase of execution. This included staff and patient scheduling, mapping routes for efficient mobile distribution, and organizing transport vans. These efforts were critical to getting the process right, well before the first mobile vaccine was even administered. 

Partnering to Make it Possible

Although Grace Health provided care, community partners were crucial in making this program possible. This includes contributions from Molina Healthcare, Charitable Union, Felpausch Foundation, and us, the PHA.

PHA’s Angela Stewart was a powerful advocate for the program. She helped find additional grant funding for vaccine coolers, organized the creation and distribution of informational vaccine flyers for patients, and provided regular updates to community stakeholders.

Making a Real Impact

Grace Health data shows that in 2020, there was a 3% decrease in well-child care appointments for children 3-11 years of age and a 6% decrease for children 12-21 years of age. The number of immunizations administered also decreased.

Despite this, as a result of the program, Grace Health provided more than 106,400 visits to just over 28,000 people, serving an incredible 1 in 4 people living in Calhoun County in 2020. What an incredible impact!

In summer 2021, Grace Health Student Health Centers continued their efforts through well-child care and immunizations outreach. They completed over 100 sports physicals for community athletes. In total, the Grace Health team contacted 737 students who had not had a well-child care appointment in two years. Of those students, 148 visits were scheduled as a result of the outreach program.

Grace Health and community partners plan to maintain this program. They intend to grow and expand to make care easier to access for families in the community for years to come.