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Delivering free healthcare to rural Central Appalachia population: the case of the Health Wagon

Submitted: 20 December 2011
Published: 20 March 2012

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Author(s) : Gardner T, Gavaza P, Meade P, Adkins DM.

Teresa GardnerPaul GavazaPaula MeadeDonna Adkins

Citation: Gardner T, Gavaza P, Meade P, Adkins DM.  Delivering free healthcare to rural Central Appalachia population: the case of the Health Wagon. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2012; 12: 2035. Available: (Accessed 17 October 2017)


Central Appalachia residents present unique healthcare challenges. This vulnerable population faces poor health status and low access to health care. ‘The Health Wagon’ was established to innovatively enhance access to health care for the poor and marginalized rural population of Central Appalachia. This article describes the operations of the Health Wagon, a full mobile medical clinic, in delivering free health care to those in rural Southwest Virginia in Central Appalachia. The Health Wagon provides a wide range of comprehensive healthcare services, such as acute and chronic disease management, laboratory and diagnostic services, medication assistance, dental and eye care and specialty clinics for marginalized, poor and disenfranchised patients living in the mountains of that region. In 2009, a total of 157 clinics were provided and 2900 patients were seen (3165 patient encounters) in addition to 268 telemedicine specialty consultations at no cost to the patients. The work of the Health Wagon has broken down a financial barrier to healthcare access and offers unique and profound opportunities to improve health and expand health care in rural Central Appalachia.

Key words: access barriers, Appalachia, free health care, USA.

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