Partner Spotlight: The Health Wagon Brings Care to Rural Appalachia


The Health Wagon

For many people living in rural Appalachia – a region characterized by poverty, lack of public transit, and hilly terrain – The Health Wagon is their only option for medical care.

A Direct Relief partner since 2009, The Health Wagon has been providing quality medical care for the uninsured and underserved people of Southwest Virginia since 1980. In 2013 alone, the Health Wagon was able to assist more than 11,000 patients providing care to people who were in desperate need of medical attention.

The Health Wagon was founded in 1980 when Sister Bernie Kenny began driving through the Appalachian Mountains dispensing healthcare out of her Volkswagen Beetle. Since then, they have moved the clinic to a Winnebago but their mission remains the same: to bring healthcare to the region’s poor.

Although they have two clinics sites in Wise and Clintwood, Virginia, the Health Wagon team recognizes that many residents of rural Appalachia simply cannot make it into their clinics because of inadequate transit, the high cost of gasoline, and winding mountain roads. So, they bring free healthcare to them by visiting 11 sites in six counties on a weekly, biweekly, and monthly basis.

Their ability to treat patients who are physically unable, whether be for financial or health reasons, to regularly see a doctor makes the Health Wagon an invaluable resource within the community.

The Health Wagon plays a critical role in providing care to the underserved communities living in isolated areas where many patients who work full-time make just enough to not qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to pay for medical treatment.

Direct Relief provides them with everything from syringes, insulin and bandages to medicine to treat patients with more serious medical conditions.

Marcus Adkins, who doubles as both the Health Wagon’s Director of Development and a nurse, said, “The medicines Direct Relief provides are invaluable for us especially with the type of people we treat, there is just no way they could afford those.”

Marcus explained that they would be using donated supplies when they volunteer at the next Remote Area Medical event in the area this July. In the last five years, Direct Relief has supported the Health Wagon with more than $500,000 worth (wholesale) of medicines and medical supplies. Direct Relief is honored to partner with such a dedicated team of individuals who work tirelessly to provide healthcare for those in need.

The Health Wagon was recently featured on 60 Minutes. You can access the video of their segment here.

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