Meeting People Where They Are With Mobile Health Screenings

Since 2022, the Penn Medicine Health Education, Screening, and Community Health Fair Team has offered free screenings to patients in West Philadelphia—in grocery store parking lots and outside of a school and a church. The effort, which brings services to spaces where people live, work, learn, and pray, aims to empower individuals to learn more about how to support their best health, ease access to lifesaving mammograms, and detect a host of other illnesses that disproportionately impact and take the lives of people of color.

See more in the Philadelphia Citizen story

More than 100 Penn Medicine volunteers—faculty, staff, and students—drive the program effort, which is run under the auspices of the Penn Radiology Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Committee (RIDE). The team has multiplied their passion and impact by partnering with The Church of Christian Compassion in Cobbs Creek and Siemens Healthineers.

Only about half of breast cancers in Black women are diagnosed at an early stage, when they’re most likely to be treated successfully, compared to 64 percent of cancers detected early in white women. The delays put women behind the curve for the best chance at surviving their disease, and the COVID-19 pandemic drove even greater disparities in access to cancer screenings, as people lost access to care or struggled to make appointments when non-essential care was shut down.

Penn Medicine’s mobile screening program has helped to turn those trends around. Last year, more than 300 patients received mammograms, up by 100 patients from the 2022 screenings. Penn Medicine volunteers assessed more than 450 patients for chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, in addition to several other types of cancer.

In total, since 2021 the team has conducted more than 1,500 mobile mammography scans and other cancer and chronic disease screenings, and helped patients find their way to care when problems were detected. Instead of asking patients to come to health centers and doctors’ offices, the team brought the screenings right to the heart of neighborhoods. Stories from Philadelphia Citizen, 6abc, Fox29, NBC10, and WHYY have highlighted the program.

Terrilynn Donnell, executive director of Community of Compassion CDC, an extension of The Church of Christian Compassion, recognized the team as “champions of getting the work done, providing health care to everyone, and making our communities stronger.”

“The incredible response to our previous events shows that these community outreach initiatives work and are meeting a need for cancer screening in the community,” said Penn Medicine radiologist Linda Nunes, MD, MPH, who also serves as Radiology’s vice chair for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in Radiology, and who was named among the by City & State PA. “We’re committed to helping more people access resources for cancer and chronic disease diagnosis, treatment, and education.”