Virtua Health is expanding after receiving a $1 million pledge in support of its Pediatric Mobile Services program.
The gift from the Joseph Lacroce Foundation, along with support from the private and public sectors, will allow the South Jersey health care provider to roll out a second mobile health van – and double its current capacity – to serve the region’s smallest patients, according to a Nov. 15 announcement.
Launched in 2018 with the help of “an equally generous donation” from the Joseph Lacroce Foundation, Virtua Health‘s mobile pediatric unit offers a range of free services five to six days a week from a 25-foot van that was reconfigured as a mobile clinic.
The new vehicle is expected to hit the road in 2024, according to Virtua.
“We are proud to make this commitment in memory of my son, Joseph, who lost his life to leukemia as a child. For many years, bringing medical services and smiles to children in South Jersey has been a special way to celebrate the joy he brought to everyone,” said Saverio “Sam” Lacroce, founder and president of the Joseph Lacroce Foundation. “Renewing our support of Virtua Health’s Pediatric Mobile Services program—so it can expand and serve even more children—means so much to me, my family, and everyone who is part of the Joseph Lacroce Foundation.”
The Pediatric Mobile Services program visits schools, day cares and other community gathering places. Its services include: back-to-school physicals, vaccinations, screenings for development delays for children 6 and under, lead poisoning, hearing and vision challenges and dental disease.
Virtua said the new, fully customized van will primarily provide medical care so that the original unit can be dedicated to early education and preventative screenings.
According to Virtua, the Pediatric Mobile Services program serves more than 4,000 patients each year with approximately 1 out of 4 children referred to medical specialists for follow-up care.
“Many New Jersey neighborhoods contend with socioeconomic and cultural factors that create barriers to care. Through our mobile health program, we can improve access and intervene during a child’s initial, critical period of development,” said Maria Franchio, vice president of rehabilitation services for Virtua Health. “We believe we can improve the trajectory of a child’s life by providing them and their family with medical care, information, and resources to promote good health.”
That mission to promote good health is underscored by the other members of Virtua’s mobile unit, which is not restricted to medical care.
The Eat Well Mobile Farmers Market offers fresh produce year-round from a 23-foot bus, and in 2021, the organization introduced the state’s first mobile supermarket: the Eat Well Mobile Grocery Store. The Eat Well program also received a recent boost with the state’s announcement it will commit $5.5 million to expand food access in Atlantic City, which has been without a full-service supermarket for nearly 20 years.