The Family Van Makes Boston a Healthier City

The value of mobile clinics, as Oriol adds, is their versatility.

“Mobile fills in the gaps. When you look across the country, mobile clinics are extremely different because we were all designed to fill different gaps,” she says.

The advantages of mobile health delivery have also caught the attention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The HHS Office of Minority Health announced on October 24 that it would sponsor an initiative to develop a website allowing mobile health clinics to share data online in real-time.

The site is called the Mobile Health Map and will enable researchers to quantify the efficacy of the mobile health model. Oriol and Bennet—alongside leaders of the Mobile Health Clinics Network—are leading this initiative.

With these colleagues, Oriol and Bennet plan to carry out a “return on investment” analysis using the Mobile Health Map—this time for America’s entire mobile health sector.


Many mobile clinics are collecting data on some level “but lack the funding or academic resources to publish papers,” Oriol says.


The Mobile Health Map website was built with the guidance of John S. Brownstein, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

Brownstein—an expert on public health surveillance—is also the creator of, an internet-based global infectious-disease intelligence system.

“Instead of using John’s internet maps to track infectious disease, we use them to track mobile clinics around the country. We can capture how many vans have shared data and the demographics of their clients in real time on our home page,” Bennet says.

Within two weeks after the Mobile Health Map’s unveiling, 400 mobile clinics began to contribute data.

“It is very exciting to research mobile health clinics right now because it a sector that has only just begun to document itself,” Hill says. “[This] is our opportunity come together and demonstrate our value.”


From conducting a single health screening to collecting a nation’s data on Mobile Health Map, The Family Van staff and volunteers place their clients at the heart of their learning.

Oriol says that her patients have showed her the complexity of accessing basic care—the “antecedents” to surgery.